Boy crazy

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In fact, man-boy relationships had been flourishing-not particularly secretly-for years in Revere. Revere Beach, on the eastern fringes of this working-class city [Boston, town where NAMBLA was founded], was a notorious cruising ground for men and boys. "It's surprising that no one has stumbled onto a 'sex ring' in Revere before this," Frank Rose wrote in a 1978 Village Voice piece about the scandal. Everybody was talking about the case, which led to the indictments of 24 men. During an interview on a Boston television station, poet and outspoken boy-lover Allen Ginsberg joked about the scandal. "I had sex when I was 8 with a man in the back of my grandfather's candy store in Revere, and I turned out okay," Ginsberg declared before being hurried off-stage as the station cut to a commercial. [...]

"Today, we are seen as worse than murderers," says long-time NAMBLA member Bill Andriette, who sits, unshaven and shoulders hunched, across the table from Socrates [nickname, 62-year-old NAMBLA founder]. Andriette joined NAMBLA in 1981, when he was 15. "But if I was 15 today, I don't think I would join NAMBLA. NAMBLA itself has become pretty irrelevant, except as a symbol invoked by its enemies." [...]

These days, NAMBLA's face fronts for little more than a publishing collective and several hundred scared, paranoid members. There are no more annual conventions, no more public appearances, no more city chapters, no more NAMBLA contingents in gay-pride marches, no more eager new recruits. Times are so bad, in fact, that most NAMBLA members would just as soon not talk about them. Of the 50 members (or suspected members) contacted by phone, mail, or e-mail for this story, only a handful agreed to talk. Others wrote responses like these: "I'm under court order not to have anything to do with NAMBLA, so I would appreciate it if you didn't send me anything else, or I could get in a whole heap of trouble." "I got your letter today ... I would imagine we will want to use encryption to e-mail each other as it is easy for someone to read our e-mail. I do not know how to use encryption. You will have to instruct me." Encryption? The need for silence and pseudonyms is particularly agonizing to NAMBLA's founders, who have historically been open about their attraction to boys. Only seconds after sitting down at an Upper West Side restaurant in New York, "Steve," a NAMBLA founder who asks that his real name not be used, says: "I absolutely hate having to be not up front. I find this very painful. But I think the climate has really gotten bad, and I have no doubt that I would be fired from my job if it came out that I was a NAMBLA member. What's so sad is that it didn't used to be this way. We used to celebrate our lives." That was before NAMBLA began its baffling pattern of self-destruction. The group, somehow unaware, or unconcerned, that police might want to infiltrate its meetings, unwittingly voted undercover law-enforcement officials to its steering committee. [...]

Arguably most damaging to NAMBLA, though, was its refusal to change its position calling for the repeal of all age-of-consent laws, despite the argument made by a vocal minority of members that such a stance-with its implication, sometimes stated and sometimes not, that a prepubescent child can consent to sex-was political suicide. [...]

"Politically, we made a disastrous choice," says Socrates. "We were going to lose with that choice, and we did, big time. And while we could have said, 'Okay, we favor an age of consent at 12 or 14,' that goes against our philosophy that the important issues to consider are coercion, manipulation, and ultimately violence, not age. We hoped we could strike a blow to the core of the problems in society. Philosophically, we know we made the right choice." The right choice? To everybody except NAMBLA, that choice was dumbfounding both politically and philosophically. "They lost everybody who might have supported them by arguing that {prepubescent kids} can consent to sex with adults," says [author Dan] Savage, the sex columnist. "The problem with NAMBLA is that it packages reasonable arguments about teen sexuality and age-of-consent laws with irrational, insane arguments about 7-year-olds. That's why the group is where it is today." And that's why some NAMBLA members wonder if any of this was worth it. "I sometimes ask myself whether organizing NAMBLA was a good thing to do," says Steve. "Because I do wonder if things would be as bad today if we hadn't organized, or if we had tried to approach this topic in an entirely different way. Did we create the backlash? {Socrates} says that we didn't, that the forces of repression didn't need us to bring us where we are today. I don't know. I hope he's right."

source: Article 'Boy Crazy';; Boston Magazine; 15 May 2006