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Bloggers get active: from BlogActive's powerful outing campaign to diary entries that build fan bases, the voices of gay bloggers are louder than ever.

Washington, D.C., activist Michael Rogers was having trouble containing his glee. His campaign outing several Republican congresspeople and their staffers had gained notice across the country, garnering stories in some of the nation's most influential newspapers. He'd become a one-man clearinghouse for information on the secret sex lives of antigay politicians.

On this particular day, August 30, Rogers's target was U.S. representative Edward Schrock, a Virginia Republican and gay rights opponent up for reelection in the fall. On August 19, on his Web log at BlogActive.com, Rogers had published "allegations that Schrock is gay. Now Rogers was ready to go public with what he believed was the proof: a tape of a message left on a gay dating phone line. Rogers was sure he had captured Schrock's voice.

"I have two people who slept with the congressman, one person who met him on the phone," Rogers said at the time. "Two workers on the Hill have come into my house and heard the tape, and the first thing out of their mouths was, 'That's Ed Schrock.'" Suddenly, the news flashed across Roger's TV screen: Schrock was dropping out of the race.

Such is the power of the blog, a new breed of Web site that has made waves in this election season. Outing may be nothing new, but the speed with which accusations like Rogers's can race around the Web is revolutionary. It didn't matter that Schrock's staffers insisted he wasn't gay. Less than two weeks after Rogers first made his allegations, he'd effectively ended the congressman's career. "Blogs can change the world," Rogers says.

Outing may be blogging's most visible effect, but GLBT bloggers say the usefulness and power of the blog is much greater. For many, blogs are a heaven-sent means of political activism or simply a day-to-day record of their lives. They use them to bash George W. Bush or rant about the day's news. A blog can be published from anywhere, and it's usually possible for the author to conceal his identity. Perhaps the world's most influential blogger to dale is both gay and anonymous: Salam Pax, an Iraqi whose reports on life in Baghdad were published in book form by the Manchester, U.K., Guardian newspaper in 2003.

"It allows people without a lot of technological skill to have a platform," says Barb Dybwad, who publishes the blog DykesDoDigital.org. "Even my most technologically illiterate friends know what I'm talking about when I use the word blog."

Says John Aravosis of his site AmericaBlog.org: "It's a living, breathing animal." A political consultant in D.C., Aravosis has helped publicize the outing campaign. "You have to see what works, what ideas people are asking for or suggesting to you," he says. "Whatever you create is going to change, and you have to be open to that change."

Yet to some critics, outing is an unfortunate consequence of blogging. With blogs' easy-to-learn software and widely accepted standards of use, anyone can now publish an unsubstantiated piece of gossip online and see it spread across the Web in a matter of hours. It could very well find its way into the mainstream press. Some bloggers have attained all the power of the press without assuming any of the responsibility.

"If somebody is engaged in a blog, then what they're doing is journalism. It's subject to the same protections and also to the same potential liability, which is something I think a lot of bloggers tend to forget about," says Jane Kirtley, a professor of media ethics and law at the University of Minnesota. "Many bloggers think, This is a free place, and I can do whatever I want, but I think they're going to learn at some point that that's not entirely true."

Many bloggers say their sites enable them to start dialogues with people they're cut off from in real life. Boi From Troi, a gay Republican, says his anonymous blog has helped him find open-minded people to talk politics with. Mike Airhart, who publishes ExGayWatch.com, says his blog lets him connect with people from a variety of religious perspectives. Washington, D.C., father Terrance Heath uses his blog, the Republic of T, to connect with other gay parents.

"I have actually gotten e-mails from girls in the Midwest saying they had never met a gay person or an Asian person before," says Californian Ernie Hsiung, who publishes the award-winning blog LittleYellowDifferent.com. "I've actually gotten a couple of e-mails like that. It seriously freaked me out. I was just writing for the sake of writing, and I had turned into some weird gay Asian poster boy."

Blogs have their downside. Because they're so decentralized, it's impossible to know how many there are or even be sure which ones are the most influential, not to mention which are honest and which are fakes. The format attracts obsessive people and may drive away some people with busy lives or demanding jobs, since it takes a huge amount of energy to keep a site updated every day. Numerous bloggers even update their sites several times a day in addition to following all their friends' blogs and holding down full-time jobs.

Many bloggers log on with a specific goal and lose interest after a battle is won or lost. For example, many gay bloggers' goal is to get George Bush out of office. Aravosis believes a lot of them will burn out and quit once the political fervor whipped up by the election begins to cool.

Still, Hsiung says, "I don't want to let anybody down. I used to spend at least two hours a day thinking about what I was going to write and another hour just writing. Lately the frequency has slowed down. I can't see this going on forever."

Lehoczky writes for the Chicago Tribune, The Boston Globe, and The Washington Post.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Gay Cyber Revolution; BlogActive.com
Author:Lehoczky, Etelka
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 26, 2004
Words:980
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