An Open Letter to Polly: Revisiting the "Issue" of "Gay" Climbing

An Open Letter to Polly: Revisiting the "Issue" of "Gay" Climbing

Post by Eugene N. Mi » Wed, 04 Nov 1992 18:15:07

Shortly after the went over this issue (a couple of
months ago) I chanced on a different climbing partner.  My position on this
topic at the time (and still now) is that this group exists 1) for the
discussion of climbing, 2) because it's not moderated, it can drift all
over the place place as far as topics go, 3) flame wars exist and always will
exist, they existed before computer networks.

Now, this partner wasn't gay, in fact he was quite the opposite.
He was openly hostile, but he had survival potential as a climbing partner.
I'm not going to use his name because I know he has friends who read the
net even if he doesn't.  We had an interesting discussion on the issue
(I don't think I mentioned the net specifically, but I do remember
him point out that he was a Boy Scout when he was younger).
The partner on this trip worked for a large local defense contractor,
and it is easily to generalize that all employees of defense contractors
are (by their choice of employers) conservative, but I believe
that's too easy, it avoids the case-by-case learning of personalities.
But you can't escape that generality as an initial condition, the opinion
conforms or falls apart or builds (refines) across time.  So one can easily
easily generalize these people as jerks (if you held opinions contrary
to theirs).

Now, I don't use that word or opinion lightly.  This is California,
a pretty loose, liberal state by it own admission (ignore the
Republican Governor/Senator/OC at the moment).  And so I tend to be
some what liberal myself, however, I admit to occasionally consorting
with both left and right-wingers (including admitted John Bircher
nuclear weapon designers, amazing Cliff tolerates me 8^).

Now, you see in a way, I don't care.  I'd like to be socially irresponsible.
See, the amazing thing is that topics like climbing exist independent
of issues like *** orientation.  That's a common ground for opponents
like peaceniks and bomb designers to get together and put aside their
differences (with sometimes obvious exceptions).  If orientation was
a big deal, I figure this thing should be cross-posted to soc.motss.
But I don't get that sense.  I'm more concern about the climbing aspects
than the orientation aspects.

I think that the gay life-style appears to threaten some straight members
of the male climbing community.  Here's why:

1) climbing is an activity where a lot of men spend a fair amount of time
with other men.  This provokes two sets of reactions:
        a) men (climbing and not)
Sheridan Anderson had a cartoon alluding to this (two "lonely" men on a
bivvy ledge).  But only this one.

The usual joke is made that most women are too smart to get into this
crazy activity with few monetary rewards or acolytes (hey, I just won a
bet on how much money the SIGGRAPH conference would not take).

Any activity out of the mainstream of male behavior is viewed as strange.
Gay males exceed gay females by a considerable margin, however, I am
aware that that ratio is subject to considerable question.

Any activity in the company of other "mature" men not contributing to
gathering food, or raising money or trying to "score babes" or even play/
enjoyment as other males see it (like football/baseball, etc.) is seen as a
threat.  It's okay when you are younger, up to an age point, because you
are not chasing the *** daughters of certain fathers.

We are in agreement that climbing is a borderline crazy activity just
barely tolerated by society (it might not be in the future).

Climbing is seen as a form of "sowing's one's oats."  It's a form of
"experimentation" which is not assumed to last long in one's life time:
a fad in a way, but the experience might be seen as beneficial: one of the
reasons why certain pseudo-psychology groups glom on to it.  The oats
analogy makes a "dangerous" comparison.  This is the dividing area
the fad ends and where other seen an ***ion/dependence.

Dave Roberts writes about the traditional family values held by
John Roskelley.  It would not be an unreasonable guess that JR with his
Mormon (LDS) values would probably be anti-gay.  But you should determine
that for yourself.  It's perhaps too much of a generalization (maybe not,
it's too easy).

I can make the above statements because I've had a few people, my parents
included, make some of the above statements to not only me, but to
my climbing partner friends.

        b) women (climbing or not) [because they are a minority in the
Sheridan Anderson has more than one cartoon about this.  The Robbins
characterature waxing about climbing while removing his clothes getting
into bed.  Why is this man so obsessed?  "Normal" men would be more concerned
about their MOTOS.  But really?  So what about the man who cheats on his
wife, or snores in bed, or who knows what other things irritates her?

The expectations that women drop on men are probably slightly more
rigid and conservative, probably because of the power and money structure of
the country.  This is a real guess (opinion).  These two considerations are
more oriented to men and women (rather than gays).

Climbing is an activity which goes against several of the traditional
women's roles (the so called caring nurturing, etc. especially if you
believe this to be an innate activity rather than a learned one).
Even more so than men being "breadwinners" probably because of life threat.
This is seen as even more crazy that women engage in climbing than men,
additionally, the problem of mixed groups can compound the problem.  I'm
still trying to get a copy of Dave Robert's analysis of this.  Risking,
of course, isn't seen as "feminine."  Yeah you will find exceptions.
See the ref.

2) society has expectations (and they have been expectations which have
        changed and differ)

        Our society is a bit schzophrenic.  It doesn't take climbing
to see that.  It like to think it is tolerant.  But in some ways it isn't.
For a while it was okay, more tolerated because climbing was seen as a
low impact environmental activity.
We don't tolerate enslaving people or taking of unsanctioned life.
But when we take that 50 foot screamer, that's okay.  You are expected
to "stay within the lines."  Climbing yourself is okay (i.e. exposing yourself
to hazards), but forcing other people to go climbing is out.

I don't think there is a single resolution.  Only simplistic (and this
partner was not that) minds like that expect to force people into categories
(repression).  That's an abuse of logic (a fine mathematical tool).
I think this partner had some heavy trips about what he saw the Boy Scouts
to be (a time for them to "explore and discover their *** identity" to
paraphrase his words: meaning to get away and think and get aligned with
other males (he was against girls in the boy scouts, too).
At another time it might have been Blacks (hey how many times have we
discussed black climbers in this group [never; r.b. twice]) or Asians or
South Africans.  And the latter is useful because it shows people are

Uptight climbers (men or women) would stay worrying about their same sex
contacts.  This is dumb.  People should not have to worry about association.

My first climbing mentor is a bit of a fundamentalist Southern Baptist
Christian (he once told of stories of Shore Patrol duty where they were
supposed to specifically look out for Gays).  In some ways the story went
over my head.  I wasn't interested.  It depends where one wants to place the
emphasis: the *** orientation part or the climbing part.

I will still continue to climb with climber X, that does not mean I have
to agree with him, I doubt he would change my views (neither gay or
straight, consider them a***; "Clone or Die" is the motto over at
Genentech).  I certainly think that Oregon Prop. 9 is stupid, but
we shall see what people think in a large anonymous group.
It is the fact that we co-exist and that one side or the other might
change (for better or worse).

A bit long, rambled quite a bit, but the issue isn't easily.
Not for people looking for logically simplistic solutions.
Beginning to sound like Tom Joad in Grapes of Wrath.

What do you care with other people think?       --Arline Greenbaum Feynman

  Resident Cynic, Rock of Ages Home for Retired Hackers
  {uunet,mailrus,other gateways}!ames!eugene
Second Favorite email message: Returned mail: Cannot send message for 3 days
A Ref: Mathematics and Plausible Reasoning, vol. 1, G. Polya


An Open Letter to Polly: Revisiting the "Issue" of "Gay" Climbing

Post by Cary Czich » Thu, 05 Nov 1992 01:20:02

Huh?  I suppose there's a thesis in there somewhere.  If you're not careful,
you'll get a bad case of analysis paralysis.  Just do it.

Cary Czichon


An Open Letter to Polly: Revisiting the "Issue" of "Gay" Climbing

Post by John Prenti » Thu, 05 Nov 1992 02:12:57

I won't quote Eugene's letter because it was pretty long.  Let me just make
a couple points.  One is, I spent 20 years as a weapons designer (nuclear
and conventional), and my politics are anything but conservative when it
comes to social issues.  My approach is simple, if the United States is to
survive and prosper, it must do so by harnessing the power of its population.
You don't do that by willingly excluding or discriminating against any portion
of it.  But closer to my real core feelings is that people who discriminate
against anyone for any reason short of personality issues are displaying the
worst aspects of humanity.  These aspects are deeply ingrained in this
species, one only has to look at the inhuman creulity being exhibited in
Yugoslavia or any number of other garden spots around the world.  But look at
the result in these places.  Also, look at the comparative economic position
of cultures that openly embrace all their citizens, of whatever stripe, versus
those that don't.  The statistics are particularly compelling with regard to
women, nations that treat women well are the economic powerhouses of the world.
Gee, think it could be that they are using that skill productively?  Or maybe
it is just that they have better things to do than spend their time obsessing
on their differences.

As far as climbing goes, alot of the explanations Eugene brings up are probably
true, but they strike me as difficult to defend (not to suggest this was his
intention).  The arguments used against gays, or woman, or anyone different
than our selves are the same ones that have been used for centuries by
both individuals and cultures to mask our own insecurities and provide what
seems to be a necessary sense of superiority (one that we didn't work to
achieve, but rather have imposed).  I have no patience with it and I have
little use for arguments that attempt to understand it.  In my book, if you
have to defend your own self worth by attacking others for their ethnic or
biological attributes (be it being gay, a woman, black, Indian, etc...),
then you are simply an ignorant moron.  You may be a great climber (Roskelly)
or you may be a brilliant intellectual (Shockley), but you are
still clearly an ignorant moron as a person. That is one class of
human I have utter contempt for.  I would hope that they could find the
courage to look deep into their souls and realize the great injustice they
do to both themselves and others by such base attitudes.

Bottom line, if you feel the need for your partner to pass some sort of
ethnic, ***, or biological purity test, you clearly aren't climbing
to your potential, either on cliffs or in life.  

Well Eugene, you have reignited a flame war :-) .

Dr. John K. Prentice                      
Quetzal Computational Associates    
3200 Carlisle N.E., Albuquerque, NM   87110-1664  USA


An Open Letter to Polly: Revisiting the "Issue" of "Gay" Climbing

Post by P.S. Powled » Fri, 06 Nov 1992 07:37:55

>    [ a long post ]

To be perfectly honest, Eugene, I'm not sure I understand exactly what
it is that you're getting at. Maybe it's because I'm totally sleep-deprived
from watching the returns last night, but I'm really just taking a
guess as to what you meant in your posting.

First off, about Bivy Anxiety: at one time or another, I have bivied
with men and women of all *** orientations, and if there's
ever been an undercurrent of ***ity involved, then I missed it.
(Or maybe you look and smell a helluva lot better than I do after a
week in snowfields in the same pair of polypro longjohns, Eugene. :^)

But maybe it's unfair for me to apply my own experience here. What I
suspect you're trying to address isn't *** orientation and climbers
_per se_, but more about gender role behavior in a sport that is often
associated (in the U.S. at least) with a certain amount of machismo,
and in a time when many men are trying to figure out what masculinity
means to them. I think you alluded to this when you were discussing your
climbing partner's belief that all-male outdoors activities were
important in helping to establish gender role norms for its participants.

IMO, this is certainly a valid topic for rec.climbing. But, honestly, I
don't know what the chances are for a decent signal-to-noise ratio here,
given the recent flamewars over what one would have thought were far
less controversial topics (e.g., gym chalk).

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