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A Nova Scotia Mayor Wants to Close a Public Park to Cruising. Here’s Why That’s a Terrible Idea

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Citing his Christian beliefs, and the worry that a pedophile-rights group might one day want to fly a flag of their own, Nova Scotia’s Bill Mills, the mayor of Truro, refused to fly a rainbow flag at city hall during pride week in 2007. His latest foray shutting out the gays? Closing off vehicle access to certain area of of Victoria Park — which local gays, and Mills, know to be a cruising hot spot. The Dutch city Slotervaart, southwest of Amsterdam, faced the same issue and opted to post signs in De Oeverlanden Park warning visitors of gay cruising areas so man- and dog-lovers could avoid one another. Two reasonable different solutions to the same problem of people having sex in public areas ostensibly nearby families and children. But should Truro tolerate public sex (as some horny man-lovers in the area prefer) or zone it out of existence? And is wanting rid an area of illegal public sex in and of itself homophobic?

You may imagine gay cruising areas as seedy spaces filled with closeted, sex-addicted men grabbing their crotches and blowing each other in the nearest bush or bathroom stall. Will your five-minute lover be a meth-head, your married boss, a cop, or a gay-basher? You don’t know! But they’re not always so fraught with horrors. Some of these spots are just meeting places for gay men to consensually get their rocks off, not much worse than the backrooms of bars you may attend (sometimes without knowing it, as we had the unfortunate experience of realizing once).

But while it makes better sense to fight for gay cruising areas in areas without other meet-n-greet options, upholding them as “a gay right” is untenable. Nevermind that park cruising, despite being one of George Michael‘s pastimes, exists in an era pre-Manhunt and Grindr. It’s also illegal. And should be. No one wants to sit in spunk or accidentally pick up a Santorum-covered condom. And parents should not have to worry about their children, toddlers or teens, being exposed to public sex, homo or otherwise.

 
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By:           Daniel Villarreal is a Columbia graduate student and Queerty contributor. Email him at daniel@queerty.com.
On:           Jan 18, 2010
Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
  • 36 Comments
    • David Ehrenstein
      David Ehrenstein

      Back in the day I loved The Ramble in Central Park. Never saw any kids or families in there during peak hours. Just hot guys.

      Jan 18, 2010 at 4:10 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • dontblamemeivotedforhillary
      dontblamemeivotedforhillary

      The problems with cruising areas is that men seeking men need to keep it on the down low. When The Ramble was cleared by a well-funded Central Park Conservancy, men still would be pulling out their business too close to families which have, admittedly encroached on Historic Gay Cruising areas, that the smarter and more subtle Amsterdam solution will never fly in a place where an angry post-Stonewall generation of crystal-methed queers want to set up the Rainbow Flag and wonder why they draw attention to the Rock at the end of the well-worn trail. The same happened in Buena Vista Park in San Francisco where dog-walkers and iPod joggers drowned out a few sexually frustrated, lonely men almost as fast as Breeder Gentrification. Perhaps, we should be seeking funding cuts in the over-bloated city agencies (which Gays are taxed at a higher rate!) including the NYC Parks Commission that is busy putting prison-like bars around parks and shuttering amenities like a restroom for everyone.

      A case in point where same-gender seeking men’s cruising spots still thrive is the Flatbush Avenue portion of Prospect Park in Brooklyn which is sustained by a poor, immigrant population of mostly minorities, and sometimes those seeking minorities. While it has a dangerous element of hustlers and gay-baiters, the under-funded Prospect Park is not about to rehabilitate that part of the park until rich white straight people move in (like the other sides of Prospect Park) We must ask ourselves that while Gay Rights have seen some mediocre steps forward where we are relatively free to meet in bars, restaurants and even in gayborhoods, we have had our sexuality ground into a pestle. AIDS will thrive because our Freedoms are being taken away in the name of Public Health but we see how that vicious cycle plays out, for nearly 4 decades now!

      Jan 18, 2010 at 4:52 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Rodrigo
      Rodrigo

      I think what people want to do in the privacy of their homes or.. hotel rooms is totally up to them. I think a line is crossed when these things are done in public places. I wouldn’t want my little sister walking her dog to have to see gay men (or a straight couple) having sex just because she didn’t stay away from a zone of a public park.

      Jan 18, 2010 at 4:55 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • dontblamemeivotedforhillary
      dontblamemeivotedforhillary

      That’s why the Dutch erect Warning signs! Americans prefer online serial killers and un-punished child molesters!

      Jan 18, 2010 at 5:07 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • jason
      jason

      Cruising is tacky and gross. It harks back to an era where homosexuality was illegal and men needed to meet in the dark to escape the clutches of the law.

      Jan 18, 2010 at 5:53 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • FakeName
      FakeName

      Jason sez: It harks back to an era where homosexuality was illegal

      2003?

      Jan 18, 2010 at 5:57 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • ossurworld
      ossurworld

      Read PARK DWELLERS: an insider study of a typical park filled with 50 regular cruisers, all profiled anonymously. Fascinating and even amusing. I found it on amazon.

      Jan 18, 2010 at 6:32 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Andrew
      Andrew

      I agree that cruising in an urban public space/park is not particularly socially acceptable. I cannot think of anything more tacky than if one is going for a walk/jog/pcinic and beging interuppted by the site of people having sex, or standing on a used condom. There are bathhouses that provide safe, clean, comfortable environment that provides opportunities for cruising and letting out the slut within.

      Jan 18, 2010 at 6:42 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • onCloud9
      onCloud9

      people still cruise in parks?

      Jan 18, 2010 at 6:43 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • MajorCockWhore
      MajorCockWhore

      i love to fuck in public, in any bush i can get.

      Jan 18, 2010 at 6:55 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Lukas P.
      Lukas P.

      Honest question: Do heterosexuals cruise in parks? I haven’t witnessed it, but I haven’t been looking for it, either!

      Jan 18, 2010 at 7:04 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • alan brickman
      alan brickman

      hets do cruise in parks…..assiniboine park on friday nights….arrest them all…

      Jan 18, 2010 at 7:27 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • terrwill
      terrwill

      Haven’t these guys heard of something called the internets if you are looking to hook? You know where you post an ad on CL and within like 10 minutes you have ten responses, and then usually within 30 mins you can have a hot guy delivered right to your door. Better than Dominos ’cause you don’t have to tip (although you can get the tip and the rest if you want)……… : P

      Jan 18, 2010 at 7:58 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Payback
      Payback

      “hets do cruise in parks…..assiniboine park on friday nights….arrest them all…”

      GLBTQ people in the U.S. and Canada should seek out and report any and all instances of heterosexual “cruising” and public sex, including the local “make out point” used by teens.

      Since it is not unusual for hets to complain about same-sex pda’s as well, in public places like bars and movie theatre and restaurants, we should make a fuss about all heterosexual pda’s in the same situations.

      Publicly imposed morality works both ways – so if the goose cannot, neither should the gander be free get goosed or gandered in public.

      Jan 18, 2010 at 8:10 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Markie-Mark
      Markie-Mark

      Do haterosexuals do it in public? Yes, and their cruising areas are called “lovers’ lane.”

      Jan 18, 2010 at 9:22 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • schlukitz
      schlukitz

      This insane preoccupation of hets with gay cruising and sex is so over the top.

      One would think that we gays who are having “so much public sex” are also responsible for the some 6 billion plus population explosion on the planet.

      Oh wait….you mean we are???

      Jan 18, 2010 at 10:12 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Michael W.
      Michael W.

      I can’t find the book Park Dwellers anywhere. Motherfucker recommended it, got me interested and now I can’t find it. Thanks a lot, pal.

      Jan 18, 2010 at 10:32 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • DustinLanceBlacksBarebackBuddy
      DustinLanceBlacksBarebackBuddy

      Do gays bareback while cruising?

      Jan 19, 2010 at 12:04 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • schlukitz
      schlukitz

      No. 17 · Michael W.

      The book Park Dwellers is available from Amazon for $21.00.

      http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_ss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=Park+Dwellers&x=10&y=14

      Jan 19, 2010 at 12:11 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • jason
      jason

      Look, I believe that heterosexual behavior should be held to the same standard as homosexual behavior. Lover’s lane, my foot.

      Jan 19, 2010 at 7:28 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • terrwill
      terrwill

      @DustinLanceBlacksBarebackBuddy: Ask Dustin! : P

      Jan 19, 2010 at 8:33 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • jonny
      jonny

      I don’t want to see anybody having sex in public, gay or straight… any notion that this is a part of gay life in 2010 (hear me George Michaels!) is trapped in a long ago past.

      Jan 19, 2010 at 11:06 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • George
      George

      Anonymous sex is not particularly healthy, especially if barebacking is involved. As a community, shouldn’t we be distancing ourselves from that practice? Most of us do not do strangers in a park, and if we take positions like “How dare you challenge our right to public sex” we are only giving conservative bigots more ammo for their fear-mongering. I’m disappointed that Queerty took this angle on this issue.

      Jan 19, 2010 at 11:29 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Jadis
      Jadis

      I grew up in Nova Scotia, and I can say with some authority that Truro is an absolute shithole. At least it used to be. Nothing but fast food and gas stations for people on their way to Québec.

      Not that I don’t think cruising is tacky, as Jason said.

      Jan 19, 2010 at 12:26 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Jadis
      Jadis

      Plus, being gay has been legal in Canada since like 1969, two years before I was born…

      Jan 19, 2010 at 12:29 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Yuki
      Yuki

      So, I’m confused. Posting signs that say, “WARNING, GAY CRUISING AREA. GAY SEX MAY BE SEEN” is an acceptable alternative to cracking down on cruising in a place where [i]cruising and public sex are illegal[/i]? What?

      Jan 19, 2010 at 12:33 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Jadis
      Jadis

      Yuki- in The Netherlands, people tend not to take laws quite so seriously as in the English-speaking world. Laws that people consider stupid are routinely ignored.

      I found it rather refreshing, actually. We’re so repressed here.

      Jan 19, 2010 at 1:04 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • The Artist
      The Artist

      Relax people! It’s just sex! Let the married men get away from their wives and gett off.

      Jan 19, 2010 at 1:45 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Jason(Florida)
      Jason(Florida)

      If you want to hook up do it in private or an appropriate place designated for such behavior go for it. Public parks do not constitute an appropriate place. I am in favor of extreme enforcement and extreme penalties for anyone(gay or straight) having sex in public places that children frequent; time of day is irrelevant. If you can’t find a better place than a public park you have a problem and labeling you a sex offender might be appropriate.

      Jan 19, 2010 at 2:08 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Kurt
      Kurt

      The puritan opinions of some people expressed here prove, unsurprisingly, that the gays are a diverse lot. Cruising exists still, not just as a holdover from darker “tackier” days, but because outdoor sex is normal – be you straight or gay. Humans since prehistoric times have always had sex “in the bushes”, so it shouldn’t be surprising that people still seek each other out in natural outdoor spaces or go there to enjoy the beauty of fresh air, trees, stars… There’s something much healthier about it than hiding away in a bedroom or getting inebriated in a bar, I think (as long as you play safe, of course). And it’s free – unlike a bathhouse! For urban folk, the local park is usually the only green space available which will satisfy our primeval desires. Why else have we set aside parks if not to protect some small bits of nature from the sprawl of human-impacted landscapes? Just as you can’t keep the birds and bees from seeking out these last refuges, you can’t blame people for also seeking out a little bit of nature to do what they naturally will. Stop being such prudes, people.

      Just like the bars or online hookups, there are positive and negative aspects to outdoor cruising. There usually isn’t enough respect, in my opinion, just for keeping the areas clean. But I think these seedy aspects are due more to the impact of a negative cultural mindset than anything else. For example, it wouldn’t be difficult to add a few garbage cans or some public emergency phones nearby. Those public washrooms that still exist could easily have free condom and lube dispensers to maintain public health. But no, we’re still ruled by the Pilgrims.

      Most people engaged in public sex really don’t want to be observed by children and families, and take care to avoid them. In fairness, the public would avoid these areas in return. Most action happens after dark anyway when kids shouldn’t be around. The hets usually know where the local “Lovers Lane” is, and the cops usually respect it; the gay haunts of parks should be similar public knowledge and in an ideal world would be respected as such. No one’s being harmed by the existence of cruising in Truro. Decisions like that of the Truro mayor are just blatant homophobia – only equaled by the sentiment expressed by some gay anti-cruisers here.

      The rise of internet cruising has definitely impacted the outdoor scene; but I think some people are returning to outdoor cruising because the internet doesn’t satisfy their natural needs. Unless you’re talking about Grindr, of course, which makes the whole world your public park – for those with smart phones anyway (and if you happen to live in a area populated by gays). Still, you can’t read body language online or catch a whiff of pheromones, or assess all the other hidden or misrepresented aspects of connecting with someone online. So you take your chances wherever you decide to cruise.

      Truro is a poor, unremarkable town in a beautiful landscape in a small province you can traverse by car in a day. It markets itself as “The Hub of Nova Scotia” because two main highways meet there. It’s a rest stop for people traveling from different parts of the province, and I guess their park makes a nicer natural alternative to meeting than at a truck stop. And a bonus to locals who want fresh meat! Anyway, Truro would be wise to make their town friendlier to anyone who stops in if they want to improve their economic outlook. Ironically, Truro was known for manufacturing men’s underwear which may have been the initial draw for gay men – unfortunately, Stanfield’s were never too hot (maybe on the right guy). However, Truro is also in the heart of farming/fishing/hunting country, and unfortunately retains that narrow-minded and biblical mindset common to all rural North American settings. The predominant church-going culture in all of Nova Scotia mirrors that of their New England neighbors, which doesn’t bode well for the gays. But times are changing…

      Like most small towns, Truro will never, ever be another Amsterdam. There are no gay bars to meet. There’s no place to be comfortably “out”. I’m surprised they have enough people to celebrate gay pride! The best that decent people can hope for there is a less bible-thumpin’ mayor who will turn a blind eye to public cruising. Ironically, despite the homophobic mayor and lack of places for gays to connect, gay people can get legally married in small-town Truro unlike almost anywhere in the USA!

      Jan 19, 2010 at 3:28 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Michael W.
      Michael W.

      @schlukitz: Thanks. I must have run into another version of the book on Amazon and it was no longer available.

      Jan 19, 2010 at 5:00 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Justin O.
      Justin O.

      @Kurt: Great post. We should be more open-minded about sex, not less. And to the people who say we should distance ourselves from public sex because it makes us look better in the eyes of the heteros: is that REALLY the logic we want to use? Hiding our feeling and having heterosexual marriages would make us look really good in the eyes of the heteros, but I don’t see many people arguing that. If you don’t agree with having sex in public, that’s fine, but argue against it based on its merits, not based on what you think will make the heteros like us more.

      Jan 19, 2010 at 5:08 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • schlukitz
      schlukitz

      No. 31 · Michael W.

      You’re very welcome. :)

      Jan 19, 2010 at 9:41 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Taylor Siluwé
      Taylor Siluwé

      No. 30 · Kurt — Excellent post!!

      And speaking of Pilgrims, now there’s a example of what sexual repression will do (they either invented sex in the bushes, or they certainly perfected it).

      I just had this battle with someone on FaceBook over Palisades Park NJ and their homophobic crusade in this respect – meaning heteros caught engaging in public lewdness get a slap on the wrist (akin to a parking ticket), whereas gay men get $1000 fines and court supervised counseling!

      Clearly the judge in all these Palisades Park cases is a huge ‘phobe. But the argument always comes back to this: that gay people just want the right to screw in public. At least, that’s what the anti-cruising gays like to say. But its not about that, its about fairness. And as we know, I doubt they’ve ever done a raid of any of the Lover’s Lane in America, and if they had, the punishment would have be minimal to non-existent.

      I don’t cruise in parks. Anymore. There are way too many psychos out there, and at 43, I’m no longer the invincible being I thought I was. But I remember a time…..

      I came of age in the eighties, just in time to catch Time Square at it’s most deliciously seedy, and even got to visit The Gaiety for their legendary stripper palooza. I also strolled through most of the parks in NY, NJ, and even Atlanta. Aaaah, fond memories – some salacious, some terrifying, none of which do I regret for one second.

      There is just something about the call of the wild. I don’t know what I’d be doing if I was 19 all over again (when I was completely lead around by my dick), probably some modern version of the same. But I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be telling other people how they should behave, how they should or should not seek sexual release.

      Because no matter how much people don’t want to admit it, whether they are gay or straight, conservative or liberal, the call of the wild is in our DNA, its primeval, so much so that even the Puritans couldn’t help themselves.

      Jan 21, 2010 at 1:27 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • schlukitz
      schlukitz

      Kudos to both No. 30 · Kurt and No. 34 · Taylor Siluwé, both of whom are in touch with their humanness and their natural sexuality. You both put me in touch with my own lost youth. lol

      Thank you both for your honesty…and your candor. If only more people, both gay and straight, could be that real and hones with themselves.

      Jan 21, 2010 at 5:48 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • schlukitz
      schlukitz

      Oops…sorry. Typo. Hones should read honesty.

      Jan 21, 2010 at 5:49 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

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