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XXFactored Mar2013: We want gender-neutrality but we also want sex!

I initiated a social media clean-up last year that continued over several weeks. Pages were unliked, dead blogs were unsubscribed from, uninteresting and spammy twitter accounts were unfollowed, Boards rather than people were looked at to follow on Pinterest. The result is that my timelines move slower and I’m getting a better chance to look at things that are really interesting and relevant. Also, it has considerably reduced my social media fatigue (yes, there is such a thing!) so I’m more inclined to look at newer content.

The Idea-smithy’s Facebook Page looks at pretty much everything that isn’t here so pop culture, fiction, poetry, general slice-of-life moments all fall under that purview. There is so much coming in there that I’m considering making Ideamarked (The Idea-smithy version of XXFactored posts) a weekly rather than monthly feature.

There have been posts coming up that I am not quite sure whether to put on XXFactor or The Idea-smithy. They often have to do with womanhood, sexulaity and relationships but are also about pop culture, fiction or other such things. In a few cases, I’ve posted to both places. But I’m starting to question whether it makes sense to keep these two blogs separate. I’m the same person writing for both and I’m not even anonymous anymore. On the other hand, each one has taken on a certain voice of its own. Also, these are two communities with some overlap but possibly differences, too. So I ask my community here at XX Factor: Should I merge the two or should they stay separate?

And while you’re thinking, here’s the March picks on XX Factor:

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Fabulis: An Online Gay Community

My friend Nikhil (okay, no pun intended there, that’s really his name!!!) told me about a project that his firm was working on recently and I thought it would be interesting to the Gaysi community. This is Fabulis, a social networking site for gay and gay-friendly people.

Fabulis appears to sit on top of the Facebook framework (it requires a Facebook account to login) and works more like an extended application than a network in itself. I guess this has its advantages since Facebook is an Internet phenomenon now and anybody who is anybody is on it (or is that Twitter, again?).

The site asks you to provide an email address and a location. My first entry threw up the following error message:

“Oops! Please enter a valid city. Please enter text as Boston, MA or Paris, France”

But when I started to type ‘M’ (since that looked closest to Mumbai even if Mumbai doesn’t abbreviate to MA), the drop-down menu of suggestions did list other cities including my home city.

When you sign in, you are asked to identify yourself as either a ‘gay man” or a ‘friend to gay guys’. Barring the obvious oversight in leaving out gay women, it’s a nice enough start. You’re also asked to enter tags to describe yourself and your interest with a default tag of ‘friend to gay guys’. I changed this to ‘friend of gay people’ and happily found that the drop-down menu of suggestions contained various versions of it.

Fabulis pulls the information from your Facebook account (including privacy settings), imports photographs and also shows you which of your friends are already using the application. It also draws up information from your Facebook calendar and posts updates of your public events inviting responses from other users of the community.

Once you’re in, the network works a little less like Facebook and more like Twitter. That is to say, you don’t exactly befriend people. You can follow them and/or be followed by them. The privacy settings allow you to raise the bar on who can follow you.

In addition to the obvious networking features, it also has its own network currency of Fabulis bits. Fabulis bits can be earned by participating in activities. Similar to the Zynga Games model, you can also earn by engaging in side-offers. These are plowed back into the monetary ecosystem as you spend them on answering other people’s questions or helping them along in their contests. You can also use Fabulis bits to buy upgrades and cheat codes for the games and contests. And finally, Fabulis bits are what you spend if you really, really want to follow someone who is ultra-picky about their privacy and has enabled the setting that forces followers to pay for the privelege.

I also tested the account deletion options (after an unsavory experience with ibibo.com which still refuses to let me go and insists on bombarding my mailbox with spammy messages). Happily Fabulis doesn’t believe in clinging on and the detachment process if fairly simple. You just click on ‘Settings’ under your profile name on the top-right which takes you to a list of options. The last of these is ‘Close Account’ with the expected “Are you sure?” message. Do note though, that if you choose to leave the network, you’ll have to go to Facebook and delete the application from having access to your account. If not, your Fabulis account will still be connected a la social networking on life support systems.

The prizes for the contests are apparently available to users in every location and are supposed to be very attractive to the gay community. I can’t confirm this myself since I haven’t participated in any of the events but it sounds like an interesting way to target the community. I guess a social network undergoes a collective learning process. Identifying itself as a network that addresses itself to this community is the first step and it will probably depend on the user group and how they choose to utilize the features that the site offers.

Fabulis is also on Twitter, Facebook and Youtube.

* Cross-posted on Gaysi and The Idea-smithy.

Gaydar

I was at a seminar with a group of people recently when one of them declared that he was gay. In the lunch break, one of my friends slipped over to me and whispered,

Of all the people, I never would have guessed that this guy was gay.

I didn’t follow my friend’s surprise. I hadn’t really had the chance to think about the guy too much since his declaration came pretty early in the day. But if I had had a chance to spend a little more time and if I’d been asked to hazard a guess, I’d have guessed him to be gay.

Why? According to my friend, he didn’t display any of the ‘classic gay mannerisms’ by which I take he meant the whole effeminate-loose-limbed thing that Bollywood portrays as ‘a mature view of homosexuality’. Obviously. This person was very ‘normal’ in his body language and expression and there was nothing effete about him.

And still I’m quite certain I’d have caught him on my gaydar. There was something, a little difficult to describe that set him apart from the straight men. A softness, a gentleness, a certain something that showed him to be very close to and cognizant of his own emotions.

 

Español: Ilustración que representa a un gayda...

Español: Ilustración que representa a un gaydar (radar gay) realizado con Inskape. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

I’m not saying that straight men are insensitive or stupid with their emotions (though a number of them may be). I’m saying that women and men, straight men that is, process their emotions and express them differently. What do we mean when we say that women are ‘in touch’ with their emotions? It means that our emotions are as close to our conscious, working minds as say, our clothes are to our bodies. We don’t really need to think too much about how we feel because well, it’s a film that’s constantly running, we already know. Chances are, if you ask a woman how she feels about something at a point of time, she will articulate her feelings much more precisely and vividly and accurately than the average man. I don’t think it is because women feel more or that we talk more. I think it’s just that we tend to keep our emotions closer to our consciousness and constantly some part of our brain is processing,

How do I feel about this? What is this feeling called? What else am I feeling? Do they contradict each other? Do they overlap?

I have a feeling men do this slightly differently. Obviously since I’ve never been a man, all I can do is guess but I’m thinking emotions are more like furniture in their mind. They don’t really think too much about it unless there’s a new piece to fit in, which they do as quickly and painlessly as they’re able to. Once that’s fitted into their minds, they focus on other things and don’t bother about it anymore, unless something demands their attention. Which may be when you pose the same above question to a man, his response will most likely be to look startled as if the thought of thinking about emotions (furniture?) didn’t occur to him at all. After which he pauses to think about it or look around inside him mind and perhaps he’ll catch something amiss. Wherein we go on to his taking time to analyze what’s different (or not). If it isn’t like the way he’s expecting to find it, he’ll probably be even more confused and dumbfounded over why you brought it to his notice in the first place.

Okay, so all of that is just the difference between men and women and how they handle their emotions. I’m saying gay men do this the way women do and not the way (straight) men do. It’s really subtle and after all, you can’t really tell what anyone’s thinking inside their heads. But if you pay attention, you might catch a glimpse of what goes on behind by what passes on their faces.

Our gay colleague didn’t hesitate for a minute in identifying and airing his opinions about the so-called soft issues of emotions. What’s more, his speech was liberally spiced with words like “I feel” as opposed to the more straight-guy-speak of “I think”. These two are used interchangeably in everyday speech but if you think about it, you may notice that women use “I feel” more than men do. And our gay pal did too, unlike the other men in the room. And hence quipped my internal gaydar,

He’s gay!

Another thing to add is how men react to a woman’s physical presence. This isn’t something I could comment on in this particular case since Mr.Gay was seated across the room and most likely hadn’t seen me till then. There is a certain way men look at women in the first few moments. There’s an internal data-capture happening of all the visual aspects and as a woman, you can sense it. In streetspeak, it’s called ‘being checked out’. Sometimes it happens in a flash of a second, a full body scan in a second. All men do it to all women they meet. With the exception perhaps, of gay men.

Do you notice that gay men look at you straight in the eye while speaking and continue to keep looking right there? They’re waiting, watching for your response, seeking your validation, trying to guage what you’re feeling. Very like a woman. Straight men on the other hand, look at you, look around, occasionally look down, sometimes fixate on your bustline or waist or nose. They only look at you straight in the eye when they’re being aggressive, either threatening you or trying to intimidate you or going all out to seduce you. In all cases, a focussed, aggressive action. Straight eye contact is aggressive as far as the straight man goes. It’s connecting as far as women and gay men go.

That’s the difference. And the ability to catch that is what we call gaydar.

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