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New York bloggers make their mark

by Cody Lyon

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday May 6, 2008

East Villager Eric Leven, a field producer for documentary films and reality television shows, found himself unemployed last year. Leven, 26, began reading more about the rising rates of HIV among his twenty-something demographic. And he later became inspired to write and create what soon became a widely circulated, hard-hitting and controversial public service announcement about getting tested and personal responsibility during sex.

The PSA (www.youtube.com/watch?v=HTvrILJiLj4) gained legs through You Tube, and it eventually became a favorite in the gay blogosphere. Leven also decided to blog about gay issues through his own Web site, Knucklecrack. (www.knucklecrack.blogspot.com)

"The descriptive headline is lewd, loud, irreverent and woof," he said.

Leven links to stories in the same manner as many has his blogger compatriots. He editorializes, and often takes a sharp, passionate and edgy activist approach about gay issues and politics. Leven also doesn't shy away from what he calls "a responsibility to his readers."

"I'm hoping to create a pathway for other young gay voices, "he said.

The blogosphere has expanded in popularity - and influence - in recent years with a variety of news, activism and even entertainment sites. The Web site "Best Gay Blogs" currently lists roughly 2,000 active gay blogs from around the world. And around 100 of these are in New York.

"[A successfully gay blog] is really about building a unique community of like-minded individuals to share thoughts, passions and dreams," Best Gay Blogs managing editor Chad Williams said.

Joe.My.God

Joe.My.God, one of New York's more popular gay blogs, inspired Leven to develop Knucklecrack. Joe Jervis launched it five years ago, and weblog named Joe.My.God (www.joemygod.blogspot.com) the 2007 Best LGBT Blog.

Originally from the South, Jervis, 48, told EDGE his experiences in Fort Lauderdale, San Francisco and New York provide fodder for many of his blogs. He devotes a lot of time to writing about gay life in the 1970s and 1980s. And in spite of his success, Jervis still has a few critics.

"I get some grief on the blog, probably deservedly so," he said.

Jervis noted a man at the Eagle once shouted "I reject all that you stand for!" to him.

"I walked away wondering, 'what do I stand for?'" Jervis said.

He offered some advice to anyone who may be interested in launching their own blog.

"Talk about yourself much more than others." Jervis said.

Joe.My.God incorporates personal stories and narratives that allow interactive debates over the occasional social issue. But Jervis contends his blog has, more importantly, turned into its own real-world social community "with many of us becoming 'meatspace' friends."

"Blogging is a fantastic way to network and build a family," he said.

The Agenda

LGBT New Yorkers also look to blogs for information from activists and activist organizations about a variety of political causes.

The Empire State Pride Agenda recently launched the Agenda (www.prideagenda.blogspot.com) as a means of delivering its message and reaching new groups and supporters.

"Using the blog format, we can put our commentary on issues in ways we didn't necessarily used to get to do," Pride Agenda spokesperson Josh Meltzer said. "A lot of people who read our blog are very engaged in the work we're doing, but our readers also include journalists and lawmakers. This is good, because this is a way that the Pride Agenda can communicate our issues to them."

He spoke to the tremendous popularity of Towleroad and Queerty. These sites draw readers with largely entertainment or gossip generated content with humor and snarky tones. Meltzer added they provide valuable insight and news to LGBT readers from both a social and political perspective.

"I think blogs in general have allowed more people to become engaged in a lot of issues that they would otherwise not be as aware of, or subsequently involved in," he said.

Blabbeando

Andr?s Duque is a New York gay blogger who highlights underreported stories relating to LGBT Latinos and Latin America itself. His blog, Blabbeando (www.blabbeando.blogspot.com), contains recent postings about the Argentine civil unions bill and two high school students who faced harassment after a court order allowed them to return to class after they were expelled because of their sexual orientation.

Duque, who is from Colombia, has been blogging for nearly three years.

"I know that in terms of the general community, no one is waking up and asking 'oh my god' what's happening in the Latino gay community" he said. "But if readers find my blog, even if just one time, and while there, if they learn something when they do, that's great and I've done my job."

Duque added he believes blog readers, and those who react to and discuss the issues that appear in them, have the ability to move important topics and issues into the mainstream.

"They get people talking, and that's important" he said.

Lady Bunny

In addition to Duque, some New York bloggers choose to adopt a more brash point of view. Legendary drag performer Lady Bunny (www.ladybunny.net) offers readers one of the city's more entertaining (and yet still very political) sites.

The Chattanooga, Tenn., native maintains a blog that can be as outrageous and bitingly gossip-oriented as any around. But is also one of the more sharp-edged in its political commentary.

"I am energized by politics and often have to blow my top," Lady Bunny said as she noted her blog is often the place where she eventually has to find the lid on her wig. "Americans are so dumbed down and gossip orientated."

She further pointed to declining newspaper sales. Tabloids, on the other hand, continue to gain in popularity. And Lady Bunny stressed her blogs and others like hers can continue to capitalize upon this trend.

"The mainstream media is so full of lies and distortions that we need the unfiltered information which comes from some of these blogs" she said. "Unfortunately too many gay men have the body of Gods and the brains of 15-year-old school girls. So I try to mix in some politics with more entertainment-oriented posts to trick them into caring about issues other than Jennifer Aniston's new hair style."

Lady Bunny recalled blogging after a night of watching 'Project Runway' with a group of gay friends. Many among them exhibited anger and passion over the challenges presented to the reality show's contestants. Lady Bunny asked the group during a commercial break whether they had learned a push earlier in the day to dilute habeas corpus, a law that allows a defendant to ask a police officer or other law enforcement official about their arrest and incarceration. She pointed out nobody in the group was concerned about the potential erosion of this Constitutional right because they were awaiting that episode's outcome.

"Is that fundamental right a little more important and worthy of more passion than a competition among wannabe designers?" Lady Bunny asked. "I know that everyone who enjoys Project Runway is going to want to take way my gay card for saying that, and of course everyone should be free to enjoy whatever entertainment they like, but why aren't we equally passionate about our own fucking rights?"

Cody Lyon is a New York freelance writer whose work has appeared in a number of national daily newspapers and New York weeklies. Lyon also writes a political opinion blog at http://codylyonblogolater.blogspot.com