Lost in Cyberspace
Cyber Gay
© 1998 by H.B. Koplowitz

Cyberspace is great for gays. There are thousands of "adult" gay websites, not to mention the virtual meat market chat rooms of America Online, where the closeted or curious can explore and experiment in anonymity, and others can masquerade as hot 19-year-old coeds, "cybering" with strapping homophobic straights to their merry hearts content. There are also scores of websites with information and resources on the many gradations of gay, lesbian and transgendered culture.

As part of World AIDS Day Dec. 1, Web surfers will be able to view "AIDS Watch" <www.outv.net/aidswatch>, a haunting electronic memorial to people who have died of the disease. On a mute black background, creator David Reid of West Hollywood plans to flash the names of 28,000 AIDS victims, one every three seconds, for 24 hours.

This will be the third year AIDS Watch has been available in the Los Angeles area on cable, but the first time the memorial has gone global on the Internet. The first year Reid was only able to gather 3,800 names, but even if he musters all 28,000 for this year's presentation, it would only be a fraction of the 350,000 people who have died of the disease, he noted.

With a partner, George Grubb, Reid is trying to start a gay cable channel called OUTV <www.outv.net>. He has worked in the TV industry for 23 years, including nine as staff administrator for "Cheers." He's also been a TV news director in Florida and is active in the gay and lesbian community, including the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. 

"We want to do 24 hours a day, seven days a week of programming for gays, lesbian, transgendered, transsexual ... have I lost you yet? The whole ... laundry list," Reid said in a recent interview. Instead of expensive gay dramas or sitcoms, OUTV will develop talk shows, panel discussions and other low-cost productions, he said.

For example, a quiz show under consideration would test contestants on their knowledge of gay culture, while other shows might focus on gay health issues. OUTV might also cover gay sports, which would be similar but not quite the same as traditional sports coverage: "We'd cut away more often to show the cute people in the crowd," Reid quipped.

One thing they are not going to show is porn. "We want it to be something our mothers would be able to tune into," he said. It won't be prudish, he added, but "nothing that Aaron Spelling wouldn't do."

While the cable channel is still in development, the OUTV website is up and running, selling gay-themed music and videos, along with video highlights from the Gay and Lesbian Pride Parade and a call for submissions for an online gay film festival in December. There's also a place to submit names of friends and loved ones who have died of AIDS for the memorial webcast. Names can be submitted by email to AIDSWatch3@aol.com, or regular mail to OUTV, 7985 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, CA 90046.

The website for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation <glaad.org> has a memorial for Matthew Shepard, the 21-year-old University of Wyoming student who died Oct. 12 after being brutally beaten and pistol whipped during an anti-gay attack and robbery.
GLAAD is a national organization that fights discrimination based on sexual orientation or identity, and is calling on Congress and states to pass hate crimes laws.

The online version of the gay and lesbian magazine "The Advocate" <www.advocate.com> has a poll on President Clinton and the current sex scandal. It found the president had an 83 percent approval rating among readers of "The Advocate," but only 38 percent answered yes to "Given Clinton's handling of 'Don't Ask. Don't Tell' and other gay and lesbian issues, do you believe Clinton has delivered on his promise to improve gay rights in America?"

Having recently taken over the website for the gay magazine "Out," "PlanetOut" <www.planetout.com> claims to be the largest worldwide online community of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people, with more than 425,000 visitors a month, including America Online users at keyword "PlanetOut." The all-purpose site has gay news, travel, personal finance, shopping, arts and other services including chat.

Another all purpose site is "Gay.com" <www.gay.com>, with gay-oriented shopping, travel, news and entertainment. It even has a gay search engine. But its main focus is social, with hundreds of Java chat rooms where gays, lesbians, bisexuals and others can type messages to each other in real time.

And "Gay Wired" <www.gaywired.com> has links to chat rooms, plus a gay-oriented registry for ICQ instant messaging software so gays can communicate with friends online whether or not they are in a chat room.

copyright 1998 By H.B. Koplowitz, all rights reserved.