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Facebook® Group Name Calling Has 2014 Bare Chest Calendar Model Deleting His Own Words
by David Francisco
Monday May 27th, 2013 3:30 PM
Facebook® Group Flame War Over Name Calling Has 2014 Bare Chest Calendar Model Deleting His Own Words

Monday, May 27, 2013

By David Francisco

Recently I joined a Facebook® group that claims it caters to the leather and kink communities and is operated by well-known San Francisco leather aficionado Race Bannon. The group is called Race’s Bar. After asking to join I received an email from the moderator informing me that the group was strictly leather and kink and to remain on topic when posting messages. I’m not really into leather or kink, but I joined because many of my friends are and it was suggested to me this group had solid information about community events.

Once my membership was approved I got an email from someone welcoming me. I was told that my initiation had been prepared and was awaiting me with “razor blades and lemon juice”. It seemed to me that the welcoming committee must have attended the same charm school as Jeffrey Dahmer.

Furthermore, the group wasn’t strictly about leather or kink as I had been told. Announcements of drag shows, cabaret fundraisers and other non-leather and non-kink activities take up much of the page space. The penchant for off-topic messages was highlighted on Sunday night when I discovered a post about name-calling.

Nudist defender and outspoken activist Mitch Hightower had posted the following message:

"I read a post on the Petrelis blog today that was very upsetting. It seems Michael went to a public event earlier this week and someone said to him in front of a group: 'I remember Michael because he has an unattractive POZ face". Shocking as that is, even more shocking to me was the person who said it. Most of us gay men figured out early on in our lives that no one would ever be meaner to us than other gay men. Unfortunately being over the age of fifty hasn't improved the maturity or behavior of enough of us".

A link included in the posting led to the Petrelis Blog where Act-Up member and long-time AIDS activist Michael Petrelis details the unfortunate experience that happened to him during the Harvey Milk Day celebrations on May 22, 2013. The crux of the post focuses on the alleged mean-spirited remark from another event attendee. Read the post on the Petrelis Blog here: http://www.mpetrelis.blogspot.com/2013/05/a-queen-tells-me-i-have-unattractive.html

The message from Hightower in the Race’s Bar group elicited dozens of comments. Many of the postings suggested Petrelis is a bully and deserves whatever he gets. Others took offense to the name-calling, including Hightower.

“We’re never going to get anywhere as long as we are so busy being mean to each other”, Hightower wrote in one posting.

While Petrelis did not identify the person by name that made the statement about his “POZ” face, he did publish a photo of the suspected potty-mouth. The image featured flamboyant and often colorfully costumed Bruce Beaudette, standing next to a much younger man identified only as “Jose”.

The dialog about the posting from Hightower in the Race’s Bar group heated up with a discussion thread that resulted in several different people resorting to calling each other names.

2014 Bare Chest Calendar model Kelly Rivera Hart published this post: “These two are both nut-jobs, you can’t believe anything Michael [Petrelis] claims”.

It was only seconds before Hightower responded. “Calling people names does not make them look bad, it makes you look bad for doing it. This is a very poor example for someone on the Bare Chest Calendar to be setting for the rest of the community”.

Others called Hightower on the carpet for defending Petrelis who many dismissed as pushy and needlessly obnoxious. Group member Jeff A. Bowles questioned, “Nothing like good old-fashioned threats to shut someone down, huh, Mitch”?

Hart defended himself about the comment, deleted his original post with the nut-job reference and subsequently “unfriended” Hightower.

The message thread in the Race’s Bar group continued, with several people relating to being verbally abused for their appearance.

“This is extremely common, yet hidden, and not discussed much. In reality there is no such thing as a POZ face, so this is simply blatant discrimination. I cannot say how many times I’ve faced it”, said group member Matt Sharp.

Race’s Bar group member Dennis Chase added, “There is lipodystrophy that has occurred in some people with HIV, giving their faces a gaunter look. Of course, that still doesn’t justify some bitchy queen ragging on it”.

Hart added, “I feel sorry for people who have been deceived enough to defend bullies. Physically pushing around people to get what you want, which Michael has done too many times over the years, makes it difficult to be concerned or even believe these claims”.

Hightower retorted, “You can’t justify your own bad behavior by pointing out the bad behavior of someone else”.

Bowles posted that the message thread made its point and should be stopped.

Hightower sardonically agreed, “Of course the thread should stop. We certainly don’t want anyone else getting their covers pulled on social media and having to endure any embarrassment as a result of their own conduct”.

Race’s Bar Facebook® group moderator Bannon did not answer emails asking for comment and did not post to the message thread in the group himself. On Sunday night during the aforementioned dust-up, Bannon was busy posting about the latest International Mister Leather winner. Because of course the outcome of a beauty contest is much more important that how people treat each other but it definitely was on topic.

Beaudette and Hart also failed to respond to emails asking for comments to be included in this article, as did the staff at the Bare Chest Calendar.

Petrelis, who notes that he is not on Facebook®, sent this message, “I sure heard all the criticism about the nudists who ain't porn stars and all the attacks on their shapes and sizes and looks. I was inspired to speak up about what was said to me in part, because of the body freedom some of my cohorts are fighting for”.

Hightower had this to say when contacted, “Name-calling and other hate speech from within our own community is a big part of why many gay people feel disenfranchised and that leads to people jumping off bridges. There is a meeting on Wednesday night about suicide prevention and many people from the Race’s Bar group will be present. We’ll see if the people at this meeting are really interested in affecting change or if this is just another feel-good leather-and-lace show so certain people can maintain their illusion of popularity and social status by claiming that they had an important meeting so that means they’re doing something. Too many people just want to avoid controversy, unless they can be anonymous online, and we’re not going to see anything change without it”.

Activist and community leader Veronika Fimbres, who is on the panel for the Wednesday night suicide prevention meeting wrote, “Their HIV/AIDS riddled bodies wouldn’t be alive today if it wasn’t for Michael’s [Petrelis] face and his fierce activism”.

Other panel members for the Wednesday night meeting include, Race Bannon, Michael Brandon, Blue Buddha, Jorge Vieto Jr. and moderator Timothy Vollme.

Race’s Bar on Facebook® can be found here: http://www.facebook.com/groups/kinkgatherings

View the Petrelis Blog here: http://www.mpetrelis.blogspot.com

Contact the Bare Chest Calendar staff here: info [at] barechest.org

View the Facebook® event page for the 5.29.13 “When The Rainbow Isn’t Enough” suicide prevention meeting: http://www.facebook.com/events/370874923029834

Disclaimer: This author has been a supporter and fan fundraiser for the Stop the SF Nudity Ban legal fund. https://rally.org/stopthesanfrancisconudityban/kZav8nn2bjc/davidxavierjuliofrancisco