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Questions persist about gay cruise arrests

Some call for ships to bypass anti-gay ports

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Roseau, Saint George, Dominica, Atlantis Cruise, gay news, gay politics dc

Roseau, Saint George Dominica, the island nation where two gay cruise passengers were arrested for indecent exposure. (Photo by Gail F. via Flickr)

After authorities in Dominica arrested two gay men aboard an Atlantis cruise, some are questioning why a gay cruise would visit a nation that criminalizes gay sex.

Just days into the Atlantis-sponsored Caribbean cruise, Palm Springs couple Dennis Mayer and John Hart were called to guest relations on the Celebrity ship Summit and arrested for allegedly having sex on their balcony, according to several accounts, bringing to an abrupt end their vacation, and marking the beginning of a legal drama.

Representatives from Atlantis Events did not respond to several attempts by the Blade to discuss the incident, however the company’s president, Rich Campbell, posted a statement addressing the controversy on the Atlantis Events Facebook page on March 22.

“Please understand that the complaint and subsequent arrests had nothing to do with the guests’ sexual orientation, nor was any ‘anti-gay’ law invoked,” the statement said, despite the fact that a charge of “buggery” was dropped by authorities and reduced to indecent exposure. “These guests were engaged in behavior that is inappropriate in any port of call, or major city for that matter.”

But in interviews after returning home, both Mayer and Hart said they were not having sex but were “partially clothed” on their balcony. They pleaded guilty to indecent exposure and paid a $900 fine. They claimed that their treatment in Dominica was frightening.

“I know what it really does feel like now to be hated, hated by a country,” Mayer told Palm Springs NBC affiliate, KMIR. He said hundreds of locals lined up to taunt the couple as they were “paraded” through town, while the local media “fanned the flames” of gay hatred. “They did try to make an example out of us.”

“It was scary,” Hart said.

Mayer told the AP that a law enforcement officer told the couple after a four-hour interrogation that they were “being arrested for being gay,” and that the officer threatened to take them to a medical facility to have them examined for proof of homosexual behavior.

Campbell’s Facebook post asserts that both Celebrity Cruises and Atlantis Events left representatives with Mayer and Hart for the remainder of their ordeal, and that their safety was monitored by the U.S. Embassy in Barbados.

“If they were having sex or were naked on the balcony on the ship in the middle of the port, they’re subject to the laws of Dominica, just as they would be if they were in the port of Fort Lauderdale,” Charlie Rounds, managing director of Brand g Vacations, which plans trips to gay-friendly destinations for smaller groups, told the Blade. “If that is what happened it certainly seems reasonable that the local authorities would stop the behavior.”

However, Rounds — a veteran of the gay travel industry and former co-owner of RSVP Vacations — said he’s never heard of anyone getting arrested for being seen naked on the balcony of a cruise ship before.

“Most ships are so big — and there’s nothing around them in the ports — that the possibility of actually seeing somebody even if they were naked, is relatively small globally,” Rounds told the Blade. “There are just not that many ports … where somebody could actually see you. The sides of the ship are higher than the actual buildings.”

Rounds was part of the Atlantis Events team from 2007-2010 as president of RSVP Vacations after Campbell’s company purchased RSVP, and says he believes Campbell’s claim that the couples’ sexual orientation was likely not a factor.

“I have been to Dominica. In my mind, I would say that this has very little to do with their being gay,” Rounds said, adding that a heterosexual couple would likely have been arrested as well in Dominica. “Rich Campbell never lied to these people… when they signed up for the cruise, they knew where they were going.”

In the aftermath of the arrests, some have questioned why gay-oriented travel companies plan trips to countries with anti-gay laws on the books.

“Many countries and municipalities that gay men visit and live in have antiquated laws on their books,” Campbell told Fox News. “These statutes don’t pose a concern to us in planning a tourist visit.”

Although Brand g Vacations says they focus on gay-friendly destinations, Rounds noted that the determination is difficult to make, as defining “anti-gay” and “gay-friendly” can be subjective.

“For example, Ecuador has full equality in its constitution for gay and lesbian people, but in the past six months, it’s been revealed there’s been an attempted reprogramming of lesbians in Ecuador,” Rounds said.

Atlantis plans a Baltic cruise in late July that includes a stop in St. Petersburg, Russia — a city that just outlawed “gay propaganda,” and expressions of gay identity.

RSVP’s president told the Blade that he has no plans to reroute a June Mediterranean cruise with a planned stop in Casablanca, Morocco, where sodomy is criminalized.

“It’s really not that simple at this point, there are a lot more factors to it than just simply being able to say ‘we want to go somewhere else,’” Jeff Gundvaldson, president of RSVP Vacations said, noting that specific requirements for visiting a non-European Union port complicate the matter. “We have to consider the charter of the ship.”

“Certainly we have our guests’ security foremost,” Gundvaldson said. He added that RSVP will do its due diligence of “checking out” the port in advance, as is standard practice.

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12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. Lily

    March 28, 2012 at 9:31 pm

    Hi Phil:
    First, the premise of your argument is flawed because it does not accurately assess this event. The men engaged in inappropriate behavior and several guests (and more than one, mind you) on the cruise have come out publicly to explain what they saw and the response of the locals. Here’s one report for example, http://www.queerty.com/exclusive-very-very-obvious-that-atlantis-cruise-duo-in-dominica-were-having-sex-says-witness-20120327/
    So instead of our knee-jerk response over the cruise lines for taking persons to “retarded” countries like Dominica as you say, which really doesn’t show that we are critically analyzing the information before us, I rather think that we should assess the entire situation. So we consider the reports of the men and how it stands up to the reports from those on the ship, Atlantis, the government and the people of Dominica and vice versa. Then we proceed to have a more analytical discussion from thereon.
    I do think that these men did nothing to promote the acceptance of gays in Dominica, in the US and other parts of the world. In trying to look at this issue in the broader context, I rather think that it has helped solidify in the minds of some who already struggle with and/or are unwilling to accept gays that “I was right, gays are …..” (we already know that these thoughts are)
    Secondly, I do also think that when we talk about countries being anti-gay and/or homophobic it has to be more than having such laws on their books because Barbados for e.g. which is in the same Caribbean still have anti-gay laws but they are well known around the Caribbean as being and having an open gay community. The country is well known as the as the “gay island of the Caribbean (can’t recall the exact term it’s referred to). And using different measures one could define our US as still being homophobic. So I do suggest that we begin again, and be willing to look at things from a broader context.
    That’s my 2c.

    • anne

      March 29, 2012 at 12:28 pm

      Thank you for bringing a sane perspective to this discussion. As someone who lives in Dominica and has more than one gay friend here, I find that on the whole there is a live and let live attitude and that so long as your are discrete, you have no problem. Straight or gay, if you are visibly naked and having sex in public view, you are liable to be charged with just what these two passengers were charged with, indecent exposure and creating a public nuisance. That could happen anywhere in the world, even Palm Springs. Such behavior is an affront to the citizens of Dominica. It says that you do not care about our sensitivities or our laws. A wise traveler should always be aware of local customs and always consider themselves a goodwill ambassador for the US and for the LBGT community.

  2. Legin

    March 28, 2012 at 9:31 pm

    The cruise operator who said that passengers cannot be seen on their balconies is not correct at all. I know the port in Dominica and when one of those cruise ships arrives, you can see every detail, every person on those balconies. One morning I was in my hotel room and when ingot up and looked out the window, I was steering right on to one of these ships with a mass of humanity crowded onto the sides. I have seen a video where one of the guys arrested said plainly that he had come out onto the balcony naked. In other reports the same guy said that he was “partially clothed”. I believe the naked story.

    • anne

      March 31, 2012 at 1:32 am

      I have now seen a photo that someone took of two plainly caught in the act.

  3. CHRISTOPHER ALLEN HORTON

    March 29, 2012 at 6:43 pm

    I HAD BEEN HEARING ABOUT THIS STORY. “Washington Blade’s” ARTICLE IS THE FIRST ONE I HAVE READ. ACCORDING TO RICH CAMPBELL, “These guests were engaged in behavior that is inappropriate in any port of call, or major city for that matter.” THIS IS A REASONABLE STATEMENT. REGARDLESS OF STAGE OF UNDRESS, PEOPLE DO NOT WANT TO SEE TWO MALES “MAKING OUT” ON THE DECK OR BALCONY OF A CRUISE SHIP. LAW ENFORCEMENT DID REDUCE THE CHARGE FROM “BUGGERY” TO INDECENT EXPOSURE. THE COUPLE SHOULD BE HAPPY ABOUT THAT; THERE IS NO FREE PASS.
    THANKS FOR YOUR TIME.
    CHRISTOPHER ALLEN HORTON

  4. DRL

    March 30, 2012 at 1:40 am

    As a frequent traveler on gay cruises (and on non-gay cruise ships as well), I am disgusted with the response of this cruise company. I do not personally have any interest in exhibitionism, but also do not appreciate police or others peeing in my windows to add entertainment to their apparently dull lives. I don’t know what actually happened in this case, but the cruise company responses to this incident, and at least one reader comment, seem to blame the victim and presume their “guilt” because they are gay men. This is not very smart for a company that relies on gays paying higher than standard prices to be part of a gay cruise experience. Gays do not pay to go on cruises to “enlighten” any particular country, to set some example of Puritanism, or to be forced to revert to the closet. I for one will not take a cruise in the future that includes Dominica. The fact that heterosexuals have not been arrested for similar behavior on cruise ships in Dominica speaks volumes about whether the arrest in Dominica was targeted specifically toward gays. The fact that the initial charges included “buggery” tells anyone of moderate intelligence that the Dominica authorities intended to target gays. Have people learned nothing from the experience in our own country of “sodomy” laws being used for decades only to target gay men, despite the theoretical application of such laws in many states to both gays and non-gays?

  5. Alexander Stankoff

    March 30, 2012 at 8:18 am

    Hey, for starters: have you ever tried getting naked in/around our “beloved” Rehoboth Beach? Let alone having sex in the open?
    Poor little Dominica is simply blindly copying the homophobic and anti-sex policies of the big country overshading the whole of the Caribbean – the U.S. of A.
    There is a chasm in personal freedom between most of today’s Europe and the United States (or its small satellites). I’m sorry for those who don’t realize it.
    Regards.

  6. J

    March 30, 2012 at 8:52 pm

    Please stop demonizing my country, these men were openly having sex in plain view of the public(Children included). Gay or Straight that would get you arrested anywhere in the world.

    http://www.queerty.com/update-incriminating-photo-of-couple-arrested-on-gay-cruise-surfaces-20120330/

    • harvey reddick

      April 4, 2012 at 4:41 am

      You guys should be quoting and reading the fiery editorial at http://www.SFGN.com, which called for a national boycott last week and got written up on queerty, they seem to be a little bit ahead of you on this, and they are right, we should not give gay money to homophobic countries.

  7. J Cioe

    April 3, 2012 at 11:29 am

    If the men weren’t engaging in inappropriate activity then there would not have been a problem. Simple as that. Not liking inappropriate behavior is not homophobia.

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‘Very familiar’: Mark Glaze’s story brings into focus mental health for gay men

Experts see common story as LGBTQ people enter middle age

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Mark Glaze's death by suicide is bringing into focus mental health issues faced by gay men.

The death by suicide at age 51 of Mark Glaze, a gun reform advocate who was close to many in D.C.’s LGBTQ community, is striking a chord with observers who see his struggles with mental health and alcoholism as reflective of issues facing many gay men as they enter middle age.

Glaze’s story resonates even though much of the attention on mental health issues in the LGBTQ community is devoted to LGBTQ youth going through the coming out process and transgender people who face disproportionate violence and discrimination within the LGBTQ community in addition to a growing focus on LGBTQ seniors entering later stages of life.

Randy Pumphrey, senior director of behavioral health for the D.C.-based Whitman-Walker Health, said Glaze’s story was “very familiar” as a tale of mental health issues facing gay men in the middle stage of life.

“You’re talking about a gay-identified man who is in his 50s, somebody who has struggled with alcohol misuse — or maybe abuse or dependence— and also depression,” Pumphrey said. “I think that there has always been a higher incidence of suicide for men in general in their middle age 50 and above, but this increases when you’re talking about gay men, and also if you’re talking about gay men who suffer with mental health issues, or substance use disorder issues.”

Several sources close to Glaze said his death did not come as a surprise. His family has been open about his death by suicide last month while he was in jail after allegedly fleeing the scene of a car accident in Pennsylvania and a long history of depression and alcoholism.

Pumphrey said Glaze’s situation coping with mental health issues as well as the consequences for his role in the accident, were reflective of someone who might “begin to perceive that this is an issue that they can’t get away from, or the consequences they can’t get away from exposure and that can lead somebody to a fatal outcome.”

“My experience is that there have been gay men that I have worked with over the years — particularly in their 50s and early 60s — it’s taken them a long time to recognize the severity of the problem, whether it’s their depression or their substance abuse, and then they find themselves in a very precarious situation because of shame, and so they may not necessarily seek help even though they need help.”

A 2017 study in the American Journal of Men’s Health found the prevalence of depression among gay men is three times higher than the general adult population, which means they are a subgroup at high risk for suicide.

The study found “scant research exists about gay men’s health beyond sexual health issues,” most often with HIV, which means issues related to depression and suicidality “are poorly understood.”

“Gay men’s health has often been defined by sexual practices, and poorly understood are the intersections of gay men’s physical and mental health with social determinants of health including ethnicity, locale, education level and socioeconomic status,” the study says.

The study acknowledged being male itself is one factor incorporated in addressing mental health issues in this subgroup because “regardless of sexual orientation, men can be reluctant to seek help for mental health problems.” Another study quoted in the report found 23 percent, less than one quarter of gay men, who attempted suicide sought mental health or medical treatment.

In addition to mental health issues facing gay men in Glaze’s age group, others saw his situation as a common story in the culture of Washington, which is notorious for celebrating and prioritizing success with little tolerance for personal setbacks.

In the case of Glaze, who had sparred on Fox News with Tucker Carlson as executive director of Everytown for Gun Safety, the threat of exposure and threat to his career may have seemed overwhelmingly daunting.

Steven Fisher, who knew Glaze since the 1990s and worked with him at the D.C.-based Raben Group, said one factor that contributed to Glaze’s condition was “he could only see upward in terms of his career trajectory.”

“We saw that in him and it had me very concerned because I felt like he might end up in a place that wasn’t good once he left Everytown, and that’s tragically and sadly what happened,” Fisher said. “I think he just had trouble adjusting to what is usually a roller coaster ride, I think, in people’s careers, especially in the D.C. world.”

Along with Glaze, Fisher has worked on gun issues for Everytown, which has been a client of his since 2015 after he worked for them in 2012 after the Newtown shooting.

Compounding the challenges that Glaze faced is a culture among many gay men focused on sexuality, which prioritizes youth and appearance and presents problems as those qualities start fading when men enter middle age.

Fisher said another factor in Glaze’s condition was social media, pointing out public perception about his identity was important to him.

“If you look at his social media — I think this is instructive to the rest of us — a lot of the comments are about how Mark was so good looking and he was charming, and he was so smart and so funny,” Fisher said. “That’s all true, and that’s why he was very appealing to many people, but those qualities don’t really tell you everything about a person. In fact, one could argue they’re superficial in a way, and people have to remember people are more complicated than what you see on social media.”

One issue for gay men facing mental health issues as they enter middle age is they don’t have the same resources as those available to LGBTQ youth, who have been more of a focus in terms of mental health issues in the LGBTQ community.

Among the leading organizations for LGBTQ youth is the Trevor Project, which has resources and a hotline for LGBTQ youth facing mental health crises.

Kevin Wong, vice president of communications for the Trevor Project, said his organization would be receptive to an older LGBTQ person who calls the hotline, but ultimately would refer that person elsewhere.

“If an LGBTQ person above the age of 25 reaches out to The Trevor Project’s crisis services for support and expresses suicidal thoughts, our counselors will listen, actively and with empathy, and work with them to de-escalate and form a safety plan, like any other contact,” Wong said. “However, our organization has remained youth-centric since its founding and our volunteer crisis counselors are specifically trained with younger LGBTQ people in mind.”

Much attention is focused on the coming out process for LGBTQ people, a time that can upend close relationships — as well as reaffirm them — and a process more commonly associated with youth.

Ilan Meyer, senior scholar of public policy at the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, said data is scant about suicide rates among LGBTQ people, but information on suicide attempts shows they tend to be at a heightened rate for LGBTQ people as they go through the coming out process.

“What we do know is that there is a connection with the coming out period at whatever age coming out happens,” Meyer said. “And so, we see a proximity to coming out whatever age that happened, we see the suicide attempts proceeding and after that.”

Suicide attempts, Meyer said, are much higher for LGBTQ people than the population at large. The self-reported rate of suicide attempts in the U.S. population as a whole, Meyer said, is 2.4 percent, but that figure changes to 20 to 30 percent among LGBTQ youth, which about to 10 to 15 times greater.

Black and Latino people, Meyer said, have been less likely to make suicide attempts in their lifetimes, although he added that may be changing in recent years.

With the primary focus on mental health issues elsewhere in the LGBTQ community, Glaze’s death raises questions about whether sufficient resources are available to people in his demographic, or whether individuals are willing to seek out care options that are available.

Meyer said whether the resources for suicidal ideologies among LGBTQ people are sufficient and what more could be done “is the the million-dollar question.”

“It’s definitely not determined by just mental health,” Meyer said. “So many people have depression, but they don’t attempt suicide. And so, then the difficult thing is to find the right moment to intervene and what that intervention should be.”

Meyer said much of the focus on mental health is on a person’s last moments before making a suicide attempt, such as making suicide hotlines readily available, but some of the stressors he sees “are more chronic, ongoing things related to homophobia and the kind of experience that LGBT people have as they come to terms to realize their sexual identity.”

Pumphrey said another factor in mental health issues not to be underestimated for almost two years now is “dealing with the COVID and loneliness epidemic,” which appears to have no immediate end in sight with the emergence of the Omnicron variant.

“There was always this piece of sometimes the experience of being in your 50s and early 60s…we talk about the invisibility factor,” Pumphrey said. “But when there’s just this sense of being disconnected from community, especially in the early days of the pandemic, and kind of being locked down, I think that just raised the risk.”

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U.S. Conference on HIV/AIDS to be held virtually Dec. 2-3

Fauci, Levine, Pelosi to speak at opening session

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Dr. Rachel Levine, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of Health, is among speakers at this week’s U.S. Conference on HIV/AIDS. (Blade photo by Michael Key)

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; and Dr. Rachel Levine, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of Health who became the nation’s highest-ranking transgender public official earlier this year, are among dozens of experts scheduled to participate in the 25th Annual U.S. Conference on HIV/AIDS scheduled to take place virtually Dec. 2-3.

Fauci and Levine were scheduled to join Harold Phillips, director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy; and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, as speakers at the conference’s opening plenary session at noon on Thursday, Dec. 2. 

Phillips and Levine were expected to provide information about President Joe Biden’s plans for updating the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, which Biden was scheduled to announce on Dec. 1 at a White House World AIDS Day event.

Members of the U.S. People Living With HIV Caucus were also expected to discuss the federal policy agenda on HIV/AIDS at the opening plenary session. 

In addition to the opening plenary and three other plenary sessions, one more on Thursday, Dec. 2, and two on Friday, Dec. 3, the conference was scheduled to include 140 workshop sessions on a wide variety of HIV/AIDS related topics.

The annual United States Conference on HIV/AIDS is organized by the D.C.-based national HIV/AIDS advocacy organization NMAC, which was formerly known as the National Minority AIDS Council before it changed its name to that of its widely known initials NMAC. 

“NMAC leads with race to urgently fight for health equity and racial justice to end the HIV epidemic in America,” the organization states on its website. “Health equity with communities of color is everyone’s challenge.”

Several of the workshop sessions cover the topic of expanding the local, state, and national efforts of using pre-exposure prophylaxis drugs known as PrEP as a means of preventing HIV infection. 

Other workshop sessions include: HIV CURE – Hot Topics in HIV Cure Research; A Town Hall on Aging and HIV; COVID, HIV, and Racism – How Providers Can Make a Difference; Expanding the Pleasure and HIV Prevention Toolkit: Kink As Harm Reduction; It’s About Time – HIV Research Just For Transgender Women; and Impact of COVID-19 on HIV Prevention Services Among U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-Funded Community Based Organizations.

The conference’s fourth and closing plenary session, Foundation Stones to Building the EHE Effort in Indian County, “will highlight the work of those addressing HIV and COVID in Indian Country, rural states and among Alaska Natives with limited infrastructure,” according to a conference agenda statement. 

“This plenary addresses these challenges and provides innovative solutions by the Indian Country – making the case to support Native HIV care by providing essential building blocks,” the agenda statement says. 

Paul Kawata, NMAC’s executive director, says in a statement in the conference’s agenda booklet that he and his NMAC team are disappointed that the 2021 conference is being held virtually for the second year in a row.

“But we felt the issue of safety was simply too critical to ignore,” Kawata said in his statement. “I’ve been very concerned about our loved ones over 50 living with HIV through the whole COVID pandemic,” he said, noting that people in that category were dealing with isolation as well as a higher risk for COVID.

“I hope this conference, even though it is virtual, will help alleviate some of that isolation,” Kawata said. “We’ve worked very hard to make this conference not just an opportunity for training and education, but a chance to connect with others, reinforce those strands in your support net, and hopefully, establish some new connections.”

More information about the U.S. Conference on HIV/AIDS and instructions on registering to attend can be obtained at nmac.org.

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N.C. lieutenant governor compares gays to cow feces, maggots

“If homosexuality is of God, what purpose does it serve? What does it make? What does it create? It creates nothing,” Robinson said

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North Carolina Lt. Governor Mark Robinson (Blade file photo)

WINSTON-SALEM – Speaking to parishioners at the Berean Baptist Church in Winston-Salem last Sunday, November 14, North Carolina Lt. Governor Mark Robinson attacked the LGBTQ+ community in remarks caught on the church’s livestreaming video on YouTube.

Robinson said in his sermon that he questioned the “purpose” of being gay; said heterosexual couples are “superior” to gay couples; and that he didn’t want to explain to his grandchildren why two men are kissing if they see that on television the Charlotte Observer reported.

The state’s Republican Lt. Governor then went on to compare being gay to “what the cows leave behind” as well as maggots and flies, who he said all serve a purpose in God’s creation. “If homosexuality is of God, what purpose does it serve? What does it make? What does it create? It creates nothing,” Robinson said.

Democratic lawmakers expressed their outrage on Twitter:

According to the Observer, “The video was distributed Friday by a pastor at St. John’s Metropolitan Community Church in Raleigh, the day before the Transgender Day of Remembrance. A protest rally was held Friday in front of Robinson’s office, but organizers also read the names of transgender people who have been killed.

This man’s theology and religious practices are not only flawed and a perversion of the Christian tenets; he places countless people at risk of violent attacks and even murder every time he opens his mouth,” said Vance Haywood, senior pastor at St. John’s, in a statement.

Robinson is expected to run for the governor’s chair in 2024. In another video of the sermon captured the Lt. Governor ranting in transphobic terms his opinion of the Trans community:

North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson (Twitter Video)

Video of remarks made by North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson courtesy of the Charlotte Observer.

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