Gay love displays its many facets GAY MARCH ON WASHINGTON Fringes, center converge for march

April 25, 1993|By Arthur Hirsch | Arthur Hirsch,Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- The shiny silver ring through his lower lip matched the one through his right nostril, setting off nicely the five rings piercing his right ear and the safety pin in the left earlobe. Kellan Farshea, 27, is committed.

A member in good standing of what they call the Leather Community, Mr. Farshea, a green-eyed man in a Mohawk haircut, had come all the way from London to the marbled chambers of the Mellon Auditorium to preach to the converted, to tell all about the two British men who were jailed for practicing consensual sex in the sado-masochistic style.

It was that kind of day in Washington. It was a day for standing up at the center and at the fringes of the many-faceted world of homosexual love. The organizers of today's march for homosexual rights tried to touch all the bases on the parade's poster -- "lesbian, gay and bi" were the groups mentioned. But that hardly covered it.

It did not exactly cover the folks who converged on the Mellon Auditorium for the National S/M Leather Fetish Conference and flea market, where black leather bras were marked down from $85 to $60 and a cat-o-nine-tails went for $135.

The conference, like many events held in connection with the march, was not sponsored by the march organizers.

In fact, the organizers have expressed concern that the presence of so many different groups might detract from their campaign to end discrimination against homosexuals and boost government funding of AIDS research.

But Mr. Farshea, wearing black leather pants, jacket, boots and left glove, says freedom for gays is not much use if it's just for gay people who dress like CPAs.

"It has to represent the kind of diverse group that we are," says Mr. Farshea. "I don't think the gay movement should be about putting people in the cold."

He says he has come to speak at a workshop session on the called Spanner case, which has become a cause celebre among the British S and M crowd. It seems police confiscated a videotape made by two men engaged in sado-masochistic sex. They arrested both and would not accept the explanation that the act was consensual. By the time their expected release dates arrive, one man will have served seven weeks in jail, his partner in crime three months.

It hasn't happened in the United States yet, where consent is a defense. But there are other legal and political battles to be fought, says Barry Douglas, the New York City talent agent who organized the conference.

He says S and M activity, practiced primarily by heterosexuals, is still likely to be held against one in a child custody dispute. And indulgence in this style of sex -- in which practitioners say no one gets hurt -- is still listed in the standard psychiatric reference manual as evidence of mental illness.

Homosexuality itself was removed as a mental illness from the reference book 20 years ago.

That stamp of mental illness in the handbook called the "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders" is also a problem for the people who call themselves the Gender Community.

These people are biologically born into one sex but feel that they are emotionally and psychologically -- but not necessarily sexually -- members of the opposite sex. That is, a transgender man may believe he is really a woman, and may begin living as one, while still having sex with women.

That would be Susan Stryker, a San Francisco history professor who was among couple dozen people who showed up for the morning session of the Transgender National Conference in suburban Alexandria.

"It's anyone who wants to challenge the notion that there are two completely distinct sexes," says Ms. Stryker, who began living as a woman two years ago after being married eight years to a woman. She and her ex-wife, an uncloseted lesbian, share custody of a 9-year-old son.

The meeting was not sponsored by the march organizers. In fact, the transgenders feel shunted aside by the march committee.

Although a transgender representative will be helping hold the lead banner in today's march, the name of their group was not included on the posters.

"The conservative element felt it would alienate mainstream society," says Ms. Stryker. She said she believes there was also concern that transgender people fit too neatly into a negative stereotype of homosexuals.

Their meeting was held quietly in a small ballroom at a Great Western hotel in Old Town. Nothing like the mass display of more conventional homosexual love going on across the 14th Street Bridge on Constitution Avenue, where thousands of gay men and lesbians celebrated a public wedding ceremony.It was marriage as political statement.

"We proclaim together our right as couples," said the Rev. Troy Perry of Los Angeles, who officiated from a stage set up in front of the Internal Revenue Service building. "We pray that not only our community, but the laws of the country will recognize our commitment."

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