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Wednesday, June 15,2011

Minding Ps and Qs the LGBT way

Author tackles the questions Emily Post never faced

by Bill Castanier

Nearly 90 years after Emily Post wrote what at the time
was the definitive guide to etiquette, Steven Petrow has added what he
calls the definitive guide to LGBT life: “Steven Petrow’s Complete Gay
& Lesbian Manners”.


In the book, he answers new etiquette questions as varied
as what form of PDA (public display of affection) is appropriate for gay
men and lesbians (he says it can vary and for sure is different from
straight people) along with the very modern question of using Facebook
to come out.


Petrow has been writing about gay and lesbian manners for
15 years mostly online at Advocate.com, The Huffington Post, Yahoo!,
GayWeddings.com and on his popular site www.gaymanners.com.


Much of what appears in the book is adapted from his
column “Queeries,” which is a frank Q&A on gay and lesbian
lifestyles and manners.


 “In the gay community, there all these novel situations, such as same-sex marriages and people coming out,” Petrow said.


He became interested in the topic because
there wasn’t a one-stop guide for gays on both the right way and the
good way to do something.


“In traditional manners’ books we are invisible¸” he said.


He also said that the book is a good reference for
straight workers who are more and more coming into contact with LGBT
individuals in the workplace: “Just about everyone has a gay in their
life, and the ultimate reason I wrote the book is to have all of us talk
more and bridge the gap.”


He said the book will help people to respond properly to
situations, such as when people come out, and to questions such as how
to refer correctly to a same-sex partner.


Petrow called the book a “collective project,” having
interviewed more than 200 individuals in the gay world as varied as
wedding planners, personal trainers and psychologists.


He also did extensive online polling through his “Queeries” column and his Facebook postings.


“The Facebook aspect was so helpful to me," he said. "It gave me the pulse of public opinion and to see where the groove was.”


He said his book tour has uncovered what he calls “a fair
amount of vitriol” from some individuals in the media. He cites as an
example one question from a radio interviewer who asked “why gay men are
effeminate.”


“Talk about a stereotype. That was inappropriate at best
and harmful at the worst. I was really hoping the book would push the
need for respect and that we can talk to each other with respect.It’s
better to hear what people are thinking — say it, and we can talk about
it.”


Petrow said that he is especially encouraged by the number
of teenagers that have responded to surveys on social media about
modern manners.


Petrow’s guide is no pamphlet-like throwaway. Coming in at
more than 400 pages, it answers weighty questions, such as “which name
goes first in a salutation of a letter or e-mail to a gay couple.”


“Complete Gay & Lesbian Manners” also offers advice on
issues that cut across the board with both gays and straights. For
example, in a section called “digital etiquette 101” Petrow has hints
that U.S. Rep, Anthony Weiner could have used when it comes to texting:
“Don’t! If you text a picture of your naked body, even just one part of
it to a friend, it’s pretty much the same as posting it permanently on
the Internet.” 


Some items that were not found in Emily Post’s guide to
manners pop up in Petrow’s with regularity. Post never had to deal with
civil disobedience or kiss-ins. Petrow’s three points to remember for a
kiss-in are “be clean and kissable, share the joy, and no tongues.”


Petrow also covers some significantly more serious issues,
such as dealing with anti-gay bullying, telling someone his HIV status
before sex and the best way to ask someone to donate sperm. 


One similarity between Petrow’s guide to manners and
Posts’ is advice on weddings. The author said he received the most
questions about weddings.


He also offers one final piece of advice to straights:
“When you hear an anti-gay joke, the right thing to do is say, ’Not so
funny.’”


You can reach out to Petrow through Facebook.com/gay manners, twitter.com/gaymanners and gaymanners.com.


Steven Petrow
7 p.m. Tuesday, June 21
Schuler Books & Music
2820 Towne Center Blvd.,
Lansing
Free
(517) 316-7495

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