Keith C.

October 1997

Shall We Chat?

Gay chat rooms are all the rage. With everyone from Yahoo! to Gay.com in on the act, gay chat has become a very popular presence in Internet culture.

I have experienced some of this gay chat on my own, under my handle. (A "handle" is just a fancy term for what name you use while chatting.) I used to drop by Yahoo! Chat (chat.yahoo.com) often, but have since moved on to Gay.com (www.gay.com). Since Gay.com is exclusively for gays, it's obviously the better choice out of the two. Yahoo! Chat is a mostly straight operation, with hundreds of rooms geared towards heterosexuals, but only a handful for gays and lesbians.

Gay.com divides up its chat rooms into many different categories. You can talk with people from your age group, geographic area, social interest, etc.

I have spent quite a bit of time in the Los Angeles, Teen Chat and College Guys rooms. I have encountered many different types of people inside these rooms. Everything that you would expect: the guy who is just there to "hook up," someone who is just coming out and wants to talk to someone, closeted men in their '40s, the list goes on.

I have even spoke to a few men from USC in these rooms. Of all the men I have chatted with that have been a student at USC, I'd say about 80% were not out at all. Meaning that no one but themselves knew that they were gay or bisexual. They, in effect, were using the chat room as a way of "testing the waters" -- to find out what other gays are like.

Most of these men became quite shy once I had established that I was out. They were very guarded about what activities they were involved in on campus or what major they were in. I suppose that this is a legitimate concern for them. If you are not out, why would you tell some stranger who goes to the same school as you information that could, in essence, out yourself?

A good feature of Gay.com is that you can write a profile on yourself. It can be anything you want, from "22, 5'9", 155lbs, brown/blue," your homepage address, or "hung like a horse, hot, horny and ready -- wanna fuck?"

Some profiles have the dreaded term "str8 acting, masculine" in them. There is nothing inherently wrong with being masculine, though I do have a problem with what the term has become to represent. But when you say "Str8 acting," you essentially mean, "I'm not out, I'm afraid of anyone that is different from myself, I'm uber-butch and am looking for someone to hang out with that won't give me away (i.e. femmes and queens, don't apply for the gig)."

Another thing I love about chat rooms: the assumed notion that every person in the room is looking for cyber, phone or "real" sex. Let me just tell you now, we are all not looking for sex. If I were, I'd be out in a club whoring myself off to the highest bidder. How can you tell when someone only wants to hear you talk dirty to them? Their first question to you is, "what are you into?" or "what do you look like?" That is where I usually say, "sorry, not into cyber dude, later" and then cease speaking to them.

But this is not to say that I have not met a few people who are completely cool, normal guys. I've spoke to a few on the phone and have enjoyed conversing with them in real life.

I'm not saying that chat rooms aren't a viable way of meeting new people, they certainly sometimes are. But, look at it this way. If you walk into a gay club or bar, you are going to have roughly the same experience as you would in a gay chat room. Many are there only to hook up. Many are not out and use the forum as a way of expressing themselves. Some are there just to hang out, have fun and meet a few new friends.


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