Badpuppy Gay Today

Thursday, 10 April 1997


Journalist Aims At Balancing Fidelity and Freedom, Tracing History of AIDS

Compiled by GayToday


Gabriel Rotello, celebrated author, columnist, and former Editor-in-Chief of OUTWEEK, a feisty New York-based magazine that launched the strategy known as "outing," has now written a controversial new work, "Sexual Ecology" (Dutton Signet, a division of Penguin Books USA) that has been excerpted at length this month in a mainstream political journal, The Nation.

"If I'd done the excerpting myself," Rotello told GayToday, "I'd have chosen one of the first six chapters, all of which contain carefully researched material, historic and otherwise." The Nation's excerpts, he says, taken mostly from the latter, more personal, part of his book, aren't backed up by the research he feels is central to a full understanding of his arguments.

As editor of OUTWEEK, Rotello experienced close-ups, as almost no other responsible editor did, of the intense horror New York City's gay communities experienced while thousands perished following the second wave of AIDS in the late 1980's. He was also privy to Manhattan's long-cherished traditions of sexual freedom, and knows, from first-hand observation, how those traditions developed and were practiced.

According to Rodger Streitmatter, an American University professor of journalism as well as author of "UNSPEAKABLE: The Rise of the Gay and Lesbian Press in America," Rotello himself lost a lover to AIDS. OUTWEEK, initially financed by an HIV-positive man, Kendall Morrison, crusaded for safer sex and condoms, crusades which Rotello now says have not been successful at putting a halt to the spread of the virus. Rotello's new study of the theories and behaviors intertwined with AIDS, now gives focus to what he feels are needed balances that too few have been willing to consider. As OUTWEEK's editor, Rotello had encouraged, for example, the boycotting of video production companies producing erotic films that gave no attention to safer sex guidelines.

Rotello laments that "a 20 year old gay man having unsafe sex today can quite logically assume that if he does get infected, he probably won't get sick until he reaches his 30's or, with today's improved drug therapies, even later. To many 20-year olds, the age 35 seems a lifetime away. "This, he knows, is a horrifyingly tragic assumption on the part of such youths. "The idea that some gay men perceive risky sex to be in their immediate best interests," he says, "may strike some as absurd. What greater incentive (for safer sex) could there be than avoiding infection with one of nature's deadliest viruses."

Still, there is some significant opposition to Rotello's ideas (See Reviews, GayToday, "Policing Public Sex") and he comes under attack from AIDS activists who accuse him of betraying certain major roots of gay liberation, namely those planted in freedom's soil, watered by the1960's sexual revolution. Rotello, nevertheless, is no stranger to controversies. "I could be all wrong," he admits, "especially in those parts of my book that, primarily, contain my own thoughts. But I have confidence that the first six chapters of my new book contain sound research."

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