Father Tony

Our Rentboy Deserves Better

Filed By Father Tony | May 20, 2010 10:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: Jo-Vanni Roman, rekers, rentboy scandal, rentboy.com

The recent disclosure that antigay Professor George Rekers hired a 20 year old rentboy to accompany him on a trip abroad has been extensively covered by both the LGBT and mainstream media. Rekers now fits into the mold of what is now a stock character: the anti-gay minister who attacks gays because he cannot face the fact that he himself is gay. Jo-vanni Roman, the rentboy, fits into the stock character of the obscure sex-worker who suddenly finds himself on the national stage having spoken the truth about a client. We grow wise to these exposures as they help us reveal the truth about homophobia and hypocrisy, but they also teach us something unfortunate about our own gay community: we can be just as wrongly and priggishly judgmental about our own comrades as are our anti-gay detractors.Jo-vanniRoman.jpg

When the young Constance McMillan was not allowed to wear a tuxedo and bring her girlfriend to her high school prom, she became a national gay hero and was named a grand marshal of the 2010 New York City gay pride march. Yesterday, I asked Jo-Vanni Roman if anyone has invited him to participate in a pride march and/or to be honored as a grand marshal. As I expected, his answer was no, he has received no such invitation.

Why? Simply because he is a rentboy. The fact that many gay people who have read about him consider him as less than respectable and the fact that some powerful gay advocacy organizations are not embracing him, celebrating him and honoring him solely because of his profession is shameful.

I'd like to reframe some of the facts about the Rekers/Rentboy story and I would invite you to consider the possibility that the LGBT community ought to own up to some pharisaical shortcoming in our celebration of what Jo-Vanni Roman has done for us.

Rekers has damaged the lives of LGBT families in Florida (and received $120,000 of taxpayer money in the process) by testifying against gay adoption rights. He has a long, loud and aggressive anti-gay record in Florida and elsewhere. He deserves to be outed because of his public attacks on LGBT people.

Jo-Vanni Roman is a paid escort. He is paid for his companionship. We would be wrong to assume that we know exactly what is entailed in his client relationships. Yes, we can safely assume that his clients via rentboy.com are looking for something that might be defined as sex, but we would be wrong to make assumptions about the services involved in this or any particular transaction.

Each of us has a private sex life. What we privately do with consenting adults is no one's business. Even when we see a man enter a gay sex club, we should not make assumptions about what he does therein. Even another client of JoVanni's should not assume that Rekers got the same service.

Rushing to make judgments about what paid escorts do is a fool's errand.

Jo-Vanni Roman could have said "No comment" every time he was asked about his relationship with Rekers. Instead, he has freely disclosed the details. In the process, he has acquired a level of national scrutiny that he never intended. We could, until the cows come home, discuss whether or not this constitutes "gay heroism". We could endlessly speculate about and analyze his intentions in disclosing the details of his trip to Europe with Professor Rekers.

Rather than second-guess his motives or his means, we ought to focus on the net effect of Jo-Vanni's words: the silencing of a major enemy of the LGBT community.

Rather than dismiss Jo-Vanni as less deserving of honor as a gay hero because of his work as a paid escort, we ought to focus on his achievement on our behalf.

If a paid clinical research team were to accidentally discover a cure for HIV, we'd celebrate them with spectacular verve. We would hardly bother prattling about whether their motivation for discovering the cure might have been tinged with some desire for personal fame and fortune. Even if they discovered the wonderful cure by inadvertently mixing gin, pot, marshmallow fluff and Viagra during an extended "lunch break" dalliance in a broom closet adjacent to the lab, we'd be inclined to overlook their morally questionable route to success. Why won't we overlook this young man's profession and celebrate his accomplishment?

If we refrain from honoring this young man because we look down on his profession, we ought to be ashamed of ourselves for being no better than our self-righteous bigoted detractors.

We spend so much time fighting for our right to have sex in whatever way we are naturally inclined. We spend so much time fighting for our right to freely and openly express our natural sexual identity without penalty. We spend so much time fighting to dismantle the barriers to sexual freedom. Somewhere in the course of these battles, we have wrongly embraced the false proprieties of our enemies. We wrongly caress middle class respectability and the G-rated family values of our oppressors. Shame on all of us for our tepid but oh-so-politically-correct whispered thank-you to a rentboy who deserves better.

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My only cavil: he didnt freely open up with information. He did so only after he was photographed at the Miami Airport and subsequently identified. Then he really had no choice but to talk because the media was hot on his trail for the info he could provide about Rekers, and the media was not about to go away. In fact, had it not been for the media, we never would have known about this, because, from what he's said, he had no idea who his client really was.

I'm not disparaging his occupation (in my book, it's just another job), but let's not make Roman into a community hero. He's not like Constance, who chose to go public big time with her issue with the Mississippi school officials. Rather, he was hired by the wrong guy at the wrong time and -- out of what were no doubt privacy concerns for his client -- said nothing until confronted to do so. If we're going to make anyone a hero, let's give it to the reporter from the Miami Times. I dont wish to sound too cynical, but I wouldnt be surprised if Roman's been approached by agents, book publishers, even movie producers to tell his story. I have little doubt on that point, because that's how we roll in this country.

Dear Sean Martin,
I don't think "going public big time" is the test of heroism. Jo_vanni got outed at a rentboy at the same time rekers got outed. He could have said "No comment" but he told the truth. He didn't have an agent and a PR firm and a lawyer and a book deal lined up. Because of what Jo-Vanni disclosed, Rekers could not squirm out of the situation.

No, it's not a "test of heroism", but what is? Remaining quiet until you're forced to talk? Roman was smart enough to know that this was a big story he couldnt avoid: an anti-gay politician, a major scandal. If he said "no comment", it would have appeared as collusion in most people's eyes, especially in our community. His anonymity at rentboy was shot once the article appeared. Truly, he had nothing to lose by talking and everything to gain.

Sorry, Father, but I have to respectfully disagree. I'm sure Roman's a nice guy. But he's not Constance or Dan Choi. He's a guy who got caught up in events.

Just my 0.02. YRMV

I think I agree. I am not smart enough to understand everything you said. Only Jo-Vanni knows Jo-Vanni's thoughts and situation.

Jo-Vanni needs to be respected.

scott frost | May 20, 2010 11:05 AM

I would contend that his not reaching 'hero' status (like some other marshals) would, in large part, be due to the passive nature of his activism, so to speak. It should take more than being spotted by the press and giving a few interviews to be admired. Certainly, he has been in a harsh situation. But if your contention is that he should be celebrated for silencing an enemy, perhaps the acclaim should be focused on the people that broke the story.

Dear Scott Frost,
He could have said "No comment" once the story broke. Sometimes one simple act can have huge results. This is the case with most of our gay heroes.

I lean with you, Father Tony. Jo-Vanni's occupation put him at the bottom of an enormous power differential with Rekers, simply to speak the truth when asked in that situation requires more guts than most folks will ever have.

Debate the rest all you want, I'm just tired of hearing this guy get slammed when we should be, at minimum, thankful... and more than thankful, aware that we have a responsiblity as a community to make sure he doesn't end up getting f'd by NARTH and company when they decide to really go after him.

Dear Joe,
I forgot to include your very important point about the power differential. Thanks for the addition.

Thanks for pointing out the "shame in the room"- we're still practicing our society's judgmental morality even as we remain its victims.

A good article, but if we're talking about respect and focus why is he our *rentboy* instead of our young man or Mr. Roman? Yes the term "rentboy" instantly connects him to Rekers, but he's just a young man trying to pay the bills while in school and he deserves better than that.

Dear Arthur,
I constructed the post title to illustrate my point.

Yeah - I'm not so sure he's a hero either. Does he deserve respect? Absolutely. Does he deserve some kind of award? No, I don't think so.

He didn't even know he was silencing a major homophobe - he was simply too naive to know to keep his mouth shut. I'm not thinking he spoke up to intentionally blow Rekers' cover - he just didn't want someone else lying about him.

It's passive courage, at best. Yes, he could have lied about who he was or what he was doing - but that's not a good enough argument.

"Make me grand marshall of the pride parade because I didn't lie when I got caught playing lug and tug for a homophobe."

Nope - I'm not seeing it, Tony.

To be fair, I had no idea who George Rekers is, and I'm 25. If you want to point out his naiveté, it only stems from a lack of education on the history and current politics facing LGBT people/kids.

Gay-History is not something that's taught in schools. And unless actively researched, will probably never be known to a gay kid.

In my sex-ed class in high school, gay-education was exactly this:

Question from a classmate: "How do gay guys have sex?"

Teacher: "Up the butt."

end of lesson.

Nonetheless, that doesn't make him a hero - and that's the point. The cause of his naivete is irrelevant to the discussion. The fact remains, he was naive - not a hero.

Most people didn't know who Rekers was, so why should he? His naivete stems from being 20, not from a lack of knowledge of LGBT history. One doesn't need LGBT history to realize someone is hiding and that paparazzi (facetious use, I know it was one camera) cameras don't follow average Joe's in the Miami airport.

Only a naive young man would've stepped into this mess the way he did. Anyone else would've said "no comment" and would've have sought help to tell their story. Instead, he just answered questions honestly. That's young and naive, not brave and forthright.

There's a HUGE difference.

Dodge Man | May 20, 2010 1:57 PM

I personally think that about the only thing he could because of being "naive" about would be Rikers himself and I think that is much more a case of not know who the heck the guy is. (Im 2 years older the Romain and I had no clue who this clown was till he was busted)

I don't think he was stupid after all he did not return to his house after the press spotted him and Rikers at the airport he hide out at a friend's house to try to let to story die down, but one of his friends told the press where he was staying.

He then was brave enough to instead of just saying no comment, or going along with the ridiculous story the Rikers had been trying to feed the press, tell them the truth about what happened That is something that takes a lot of guts when you are young, and realise this guy has a lot of money and fire power (and "friends") at his disposal to go after you with, and you don't have the money to defend your self. Not only that but when your job and source of income has also already been blown by this same scandal.

I really don't see what people think he had to gain, after all how many book/movie deals have you ever seen that have and "adult industries" worker as the "hero" role in them? I know I have not seen any/many at all.

I think that he is a hero after all if he had just said no comment or passively backed Rikers cocamy story Rikers could have wiggled his way out of this bind like the anti-gay slime bags always do when they get them selves into question stations that have not exploded.

Dear Jerame,
"Passive courage"??!! Isn't that what most soldiers who come back from foreign wars after putting themselves in harm's way for us are credited with!! Do we relegate them to lesser heroism because they didn't manage to lose a limb?
Also, Jo_vanni's biggest wish is that all this will blow over and die down. He wants to be unknown. He is not and never has asked for honorifics.
Here's my point: in the timeline of the battle for gay rights, he has been significantly instrumental and we have no right to diminish his actions and words because he is politically inconvenient.

Tony, that's exactly why I say you're wrong here - it's not "political inconvenience" it's that his actions weren't exactly heroic. Also, he's asked for anonymity and to, essentially, be left alone - why would any pride parade reach out to him when he's asking for just the opposite.

Comparing this situation to men in war is so absurd I just won't even bother to address it.

Finally, I'll say this:

If Rekers had been hit by a bus, would we be asking the bus driver to grand marshall a pride parade? It's not a whole lot different...Jo_vanni was a victim of circumstance, not a hero.

He's cute, not a "hero." Learn the difference Tony.

Dear AndrewW,
Yours is the most unnerving dismissal: he's cute. So, not only should we assign him a lesser estimation because he's a rentboy, but we should also preclude him from heroism because he's cute. Sorry, I'm not learning that difference.

No, Tony. My comment is about WHY you chose to write about this kid. It's because he's CUTE and not because you seriously think he's some kind of "hero."

Dear AndrewW,
I see. Although most would describe him as cute, as do I, he's not my "type". Therefore, my opinion in this matter is not clouded. And you know I'm the first to admit it when I'm distracted by physical attraction!

Father Tony, I normally love your columns. I think you have a healthy respect for the power of misplaced moral judgments.

However, I agree with the comments that Jo-Vanni's problem with the community has nothing to do with his profession.

Jo-Vanni is a very weak symbol of gay liberation. What he symbolizes is an ambivalence of some gays about the destructive nature of living in the closet. While Jo-Vanni may not have known Rekers was an anti-gay crusader he certainly must have known the man had a family. He must have also known Rekers was deeply closeted. Jo-Vanni's "boyfriend" was so closeted he left the room when journalists went to Jo-Vanni's. And the boyfriend left Jo-Vanni himself shortly thereafter (probably to protect his own little closet). None of this seems to have provoked the least outrage from Jo-Vanni (though certainly some personal hurt). Furthermore, his lament for the loss of his career seems to be predicated on the fact that he could never again get the same sorts of clients (presumably also very closeted).

If he wanted to turn this around, he could very easily leverage his new-found publicity to discuss the ways in which a closeted life erodes the souls of gay men who live in them. In that regard, his perspective is unique, relevant, and powerful. And to do so he needs neither eloquence or a personal philosophy; he simply needs to communicate the truth.

Until he does that, however, he hasn't earned the right to sit at the head of a parade.

Dear SoFloMo,

There are many ways to do the right thing. I think we refer to them as everyday heroism. I'd like to think that most of us practice that in the privacy of our simple and unnoticed lives. The test of a person's integrity is how it performs under sudden and close scrutiny and when the odds are ratcheted beyond our own doing and/or control. In the close Bush/Gore election, what if it had come down to a single vote somewhere in Florida and what if we knew who that one voter was? Surely we would have had a ticker tape parade for the one voter whose simple ordinarily insignificant act turned the tides from Bush to Gore. (If only.) I think we need to apply these kinds of templates to what has happened in this story. That is rather my point in this post.

Yesterday, I asked Jo-Vanni Roman if anyone has invited him to participate in a pride march and/or to be honored as a grand marshal. As I expected, his answer was no, he has received no such invitation. Why? Simply because he is a rentboy.

That's a pretty wild assumption. More likely, he hasn't been asked because there's nothing particularly heroic about his role in this. He's just the hooker that Reker got caught with. If Reker had gotten busted in a public bathroom getting a blowjob, would we ask the cocksucker to be Grand Marshall of a parade?

(I have nothing against hookers. Or cocksuckers.)

Sure, we appreciate that he was honest about what happened, and he's an interesting figure because he was a player in an event that will have a big impact on our cause. But, hero? Seriously?

And your comparisons of this guy to a soldier in a foreign war or the person who discovers a cure for AIDS are just bizarre. You can't be serious.

I think Jo-Vanni Roman deserves a big thank you from our community for his role in bringing down Rekers. You're absolutely right that he could have said "No comment" and protected Rekers' closet, but instead, he chose to come forward. I recall reading once that it's considered a big no-no for a prostitute to disclose a john's identity, so the fact that he was willing to put his ability to work on the line is commendable. Considering that he was doing this to help pay for college, I really hope someone out there is willing to pay the rest of his tuition if he can't make money anymore.

That being said, let's be honest: Despite being the world's oldest profession, prostitution is not a respectable way to make a living and likely won't be for a very long time. The same goes for being a porn actor. That speaks volumes about our culture's often puritanical approach to sexuality, but it's reality, and will likely remain reality in the foreseeable future.

Tony, will you pay for his tuition?

Come on, be a hero.

Dear AndrewW,
Lol. Good one. My answer is no, but if I were Ellen and had her money I sure would. I will however offer Jo-Vanni dinner and I'll let you know where to send the medal!

Start the "Jo-Vanni Rent Boy College Fund." People will donate. Enjoy your Dinner.

Martin Marti | May 20, 2010 3:26 PM

“In these desperate times, a desperate call for a hero”
We cram into theatres like sardines in search of a hero. We know that they are not real. But in ritualistic fashion for two dark hours, we stare and share in silence our hope for a champion to stem the rising tide.
These are desperate times, especially in our community. We are on the cusp of great change. Of realizing the hard fought and well earned dreams of generations of oppressed gay men and women: equal opportunity and dignity under the law. Yet, we sense complacency and disunity. And we fear that they foreshadow a period of incrementalism and not a period of punctuated progress. Therefore we search desperately for national figures and flag bearers, for momentum. For anyone who can confidently help stem the rising tide of timidity and concession.
Jo-Vanni Roman is not a hero. And just because he has been metaphorically crucified by some, he is not a messiah. He is not a champion for the oppressed. He cannot speak eloquently, as a counter-weight to bigots like Rekers, about the value that homosexual parents adopting add to both society and to the individual children. He cannot because he forewent and postponed the benefits of a college education for the shortsighted profits of on-line prostitution. I know him intimately so I can intimate his motivations.
We must not forget why we march and why we parade and why we fight as a gay community. It is not done with the hope of giving physically gifted gay 20-year-olds with the world as there oyster the freedom to crack it open from their beds, but instead to give that same precious young person the same opportunities that a heterosexual has: equal access to healthcare, the military, education, marriage and dignity.
No, there no heroes in this affair. Not the journalists who appealed to the lowest common denominator by carelessly scribbling a slash and burn expose that didn’t aim to change minds but instead to punish a pathetic man for flaws we all possess. They would have been heroes had they written a little noticed article that praised the efforts of homosexual parents to change hearts and minds within the community. So little is so much and in the end everything. Not the prostitute, who knew all along that he was selling himself short by selling himself sexually and knew all along that he was traveling with a renowned homophobe. A homosexual homophobe. He gave him the long-stroke he requested anyways. Then he lied about the nature of their relationship to reporters in order to kill the story. Only when his back was against the wall did he come clean. He would be a hero if he got a degree in psychology and helped young people avoid entering the unhealthy and ultimately unsustainable prostitution profession. Not Rekers. His actions were and remain everything but heroic; hostile to the movement and to his own heart.
Yours is a desperate cry for a hero. Your heart is in the right place, but your head is not. These are desperate times and in our desperation we --much like an abandoned and poor 20-year-old-- search for any and every answer, for heroes in the dark that will beat the odds.
But his 15 minutes are up. And in the wake we are left not with bravery, but with potential. With perhaps. Perhaps these journalists will learn write stories that empower and build up the gay community, making it easier for fringe members like Rekers to proudly join the flock. Perhaps Rekers can recant and repent. Perhaps he will crusade for gay equality. Perhaps Jo-Vanni Roman will make healthier and smarter choices. Perhaps he will become a role-model for young gays considering taking the easy road. Perhaps we will find a flag bearer. A real-world champion that will help lead us to the promised land of equality. Tennessee Williams said that perhaps “is the only possible thing to call the future. And the important thing is not to allow that to scare you.” Don’t despair, Father Tony.

Dear Martin Marti,
With thanks for your thoughtful reply, be assured that I am neither desperate nor despairing. I think that in some future decade, Jo-Vanni Roman will be reassessed in a more positive light. My motivation for this post was twofold: to examine the qualities of heroism and to suggest that many are dismissive of the young man because he is (was?) a sex-worker. My disagreement with you would involve your negative assessment of his profession.

Martin Marti | May 21, 2010 11:52 AM

I generally agree with your thesis but not with your basic supposition. Your thesis is that homosexuals, who are fighting for dignity and equality, should feel solidarity with others fighting for dignity and equality, like prostitutes. I agree. However, your basic supposition is that there is little difference between the crusade for equal protection under the law for homosexuals and the fight for sexual freedom. I don’t agree. Simply put, they are not linked together as you propose; they are in fact quite mutually exclusive. There is evidence of the disconnect between the two in some of the replies that you have gotten so far from your readers.
The sexual revolution is about saving nude beaches and legalizing prostitution and softening punishment for statutory rape and decriminalizing sex acts and bringing pornography out of the shadows, etc.
The fight for homosexual equality is much different. It is simply the battle for legal recognition and protection of LGBTs.
The latter is a fight that has mainstream support. Support from conservatives and liberals alike. It is the battle that we are on the cusp of winning. It is about families, the military, adoption and bringing the community into the mainstream. The former is more counter-culture than mainstream. It is about celebrities and rebels and pushing the envelope, bringing the mainstream to us. It has pockets of support in different disparate communities, like libertarians and folks in the far left.
Just because you support gay marriage does not mean that you support the decriminalization of prostitution. There is a difference between the two. One difference is choice. One does not choose to be a homosexual. On does choose to be a prostitute. I know that there are exceptions to that rule. I am not arguing that all prostitutes choose to enter their profession; some are forced into the trade by abusers or by circumstance. However, in the case of Jo-Vanni Roman it was a choice. He had options. I know. He chose this lifestyle because of the short hours, the soaring pay and the freedom it provided him; things that few 20-year-olds have. However, it is a lifestyle that put him and those he loved at an increased risk of acquiring STDs and HIV—let’s be honest here; he was not using dental dams. And just because he did not sleep with all of his clients, he did with many. The rave reviews are on-line. Clients who in some cases were having unprotected sex with others. He also put himself at risk of being abused by these same clients because his work was illegal, in the shadows. Let’s be honest here, people paying for sex with pubescent looking prostitutes are not the most decent and trustworthy people. Rekers is a case in point. Let’s be honest here, the reason people paid such a high premium for his company was that they took with them a piece of his innocence and youth. But he and you are wrong: youth and innocence are priceless! He chose to continue, even though his double life weighed on his conscience. And he ultimately paid a price for his choice.
Like young Icarus he flew too high on unsafe and unsustainable wings. And they melted. He’s fortunate he landed healthy and unbroken and with a promising future ahead. But sorry, no hero’s welcome. Not for choosing to be a prostitute, doing everything to avoid being caught and then finally, reluctantly, outing a homosexual homophobe you serviced and protected. Not heroic enough. Not yet.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | May 20, 2010 3:33 PM

Sex workers are workers. Most are brutally exploited.

They need good pay, comprehensive medical benefits and plenty of paid vacation to get over the trauma of working with scum like Rekers.

They should organize.

The cults, from Rekers to Der Papenfuehrer, pillory sex workers involved in cult sex scandals. That's why we should give them a large helping of support. Tony is right, this guy stepped up to bat for us simply by telling the truth and we should support him for it.

It's common decency, something frequently lacking in the reactions of people with cult inspired ideas about sex and sex workers.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | May 22, 2010 11:49 AM

Bill, old friend and adversary, though I agree with your sentiments I also believe the furtive nature and exploitation of 95% of the occupation you reference cannot be solved by union membership. (perhaps in the states drug rehab, but otherwise?)

In the real world ten year old boys and girls are kidnapped or purchased from their families. Do you expect they are going to join a union? Here in Thailand where "minor wife" is respectable and men who use brothels 95% are for Thai men do you expect that any union can protect them?

And then there is India and Burma!

Look, it is a hypocritical society, got it....it is also totally wrong. Get on a plane (budget a year)and I will meet you at the airport and we will see what we can do to unionize the workers. Of course the police, military and politicians will not be on our side, but what would we care? We have our union!

wow...this is definitely a bit extreme. I got your point. My point is that we are not going to celebrate him because (imho) celebrating him would validate the sort of rampant mutual protection pact that most closeted gays have with one another. You yourself admit that Jo-Vanni just wants this to blow over and die down. What you indicate is that he is passing on his singular opportunity to use this "circumstantial inconvenience" for the greater good of the community.

As for our soldiers, we celebrate them because they volunteer to fight our fights even without a specific knowledge of the outcome for them personally. To extend *your* soldier analogy, it sounds as though you are advocating we award the purple heart to a draftee who was shot by the enemy while fleeing the front. The intention of your soldier reference holds more for making a grand marshal of the out lesbian, college freshman who makes 5,000 voter calls against Amendment 2.

Has Jo-Vanni had a less-than-fawning reception after the Rekers scandal broke? Sure. Is it because he was a rentboy? No. Do we appreciate that Rekers has been exposed? Sure. But Jo-Vanni is now shirking away from a fight he could help us win. Let him take up that fight, let him be out and proud and help others get there. Maybe then we'll ask him to take a place of honor.

If your article means to shame us for not embracing him as a result of his accidental fame, then I'm sorry. I'm not ashamed to claim he's no hero of mine. I hope he can take what's happened and make it something heroic. But it's not there yet.

Dear Mr. Davis,
It is obvious you have not been following this story close enough to be able to form an accurate account and therefore offer an informed opinion.

Jo-Vanni had no idea who G. Rekers was until a friend told him about all the terrible things GR has done. GR was pressuring him to clam up about everything.Jo-Vanni's family and friends had no idea he was earning money for school by being a rent boy! In spite of this, Jo-Vanni gave up his way of life, his privacy, possibly his family and friends, to stand up and do the right thing.... to not let this sorry excuse of a man get away with the heinous crimes he has done to the Gay community for over forty years!

In the heat of the moment, Jo- Vanni gave up his life as he knew it for you! And me, all of us who have suffered at the hands of these homophobes. Think of the thousands who have hated themselves and tried to kill themselves because of the baseless lies and twisted facts George Rekers has spewed as America's number one "expert" on "reparative therapy" nonsense!

Thanks to Jo-Vanni, NARTH and the rest of their ilk don't have a leg to stand on.The legal ramifications of this discredication will affect the Florida gay adoption appeal, The California Prop 8 appeal and numerous others, both past and future, for years to come.

To me, that makes Jo one righteous dude and one of the greatest heroes to come along in a while. Jo-Vanni Roman can Grand-Marshall my Gay Pride Parade any time!

Um, that's not really how the story went down. He thought he could keep his privacy and his identity secret, but bloggers hunted it down. And then they put up his ads and myspace diaries and facebook pictures all over the internet.

Gays treated him like shit because he was a rentboy. I'll agree with that much. But I don't know about grand marshalling any parades. I was ambivalent about Constance too (as well as Paris Hilton at LA Pride a few years ago and Kathy Griffin at Spokane Pride in 2005).

Dear Alex,
Then how should the winnowing and vetting be done for marshaldom? Is the boy who sticks his finger in the dike and keeps it from collapse or the boy who shouts "the emperor has no clothes" not heroic? I think we ought to celebrate the huge good that is accomplished more than the slight resume of the agent. When we put somebody in a parade, we are cheering a victory more than the individual who bought the ticket.

Thank you, Father Tony,for having my back. It seems we are in the minority with our feelings on this issue. Which to me is just a sign of how jaded and cynical people can be these days. It is almost as if people can't see a glimmer of this in themselves so then it couldn't be a possibility that Jo made an altruistic "leap of faith."

I would also point out how eloquent and compassionate Jo-Vanni was in his CNN(?) interview about he hoped the best for Dr. Rekers and wanted to help him and remain his friend. That sorta seems heroic to me,too! After all this man has put him, and us, through! The talibangicals would have a hard time convincing anyone Jo was some sort of sleazy money-grubber from that interview.

Wikipedia's definition:

"..hero... came to refer to characters who, in the face of danger and adversity or from a position of weakness, display courage and the will for self sacrifice- that is, heroism- for some greater good of all humanity..."

I'm still with you, Father T.

mondschein.us | May 21, 2010 8:32 AM

With your "emperor has no clothes" analogy, the report is the speaker. Mr. Roman is the boy standing next to him who confirms it because he worked for the tailors.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | May 21, 2010 11:05 AM

Having been distracted by events in Thailand I will confess I did hear about this matter, but have not had time for the diversions of Bilerico. (What happened to Giovanni by the way?)

OK, I am saying this once again from the near beginning of the Gay Movement. In 1972 when I was merely 19 I helped to found the second Gay org in Indiana. I knew both sex workers and their patrons even then. Guess what? Sex workers are just people trying to survive like anyone else. None of you know anything about the life, resources or options available to this young man and making judgments of him are irrelevant. Plenty of people of both sexes have been escorts during their college years. The "Stepford Queer" is showing here. Shame on anyone who judges someone else for what they may have no choice but to do. If this were about a trans woman you would not dare.

Fr. Tony, he is braver by far than most bishops who would hire him. ;)


I dont see a whole lot of folks in this thread saying much of anything againsts ex workers, sorry. By and large, the response has been more like "so?"

Rather, as I noted above, once the story was blown, Roman had no real choice. Rekers was simply too big a target, and Roman knew he had to get out of the way fast unless he wanted to become a target as well. But he wasnt exactly forthcoming -- he had to be pushed — for whatever reason — into talking. Sorry, that's not heroism.

To put it in another way, had he not been photographed in that airport, would we even be having this discussion? I'm thinking no: he would have gone on to the next client, Rekers would have continued on as a duplicious mouthpiece, and Fr. Tony would be writing about something else altogether. So I would ask you to consider that the next time someone suggests "heroism".

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | May 21, 2010 11:02 PM

I don't believe I used the word "hero" once. I used the word brave. I presume he chooses obscurity for safety and again....none of us know what his options have been in life.

In the early 1970's of my MCC attendance our minister bemoaned the use of, or exploitation of, our fellow brothers and sisters. Our congregation went strangely quiet and I wondered how many there had been used, exploited or had exploited someone else.

Michael M | May 20, 2010 6:52 PM

It is interesting how this has flagged a lot of comments in a volatile sense. This may reflect a sort of larger idea how the community sees the issue.

I think the grand marshal thing aside we do need to acknowledge that this gentleman did in fact act with bravery. When the Rekkers tried to make up some items to save himself, Roman spoke up about what his view of the situation was. He did not let Rekkers get away with lies. His true act of heroics comes from the fact that he probably knew full well how he would be received by the public (which again, is reflective in these comments), but he did the right thing.

But how we treat others who are less reputable representation of the community is rather appalling. I have a hard time with the idea that we instinctively react to those who may embarrass the community with closeting their existence. This guy acted with bravery and contributed to this national conversation. He had stated he did not know Rekkers history prior, but once he knew he started to talk about the experiences. I have respect for him and I respect Father Tony for bringing this issue up. Thank you.

As for the marshal debate, I think Alex pointed out a few choices that I would never agree with. That is a whole other argument to withstand.

Michael M | May 20, 2010 6:53 PM

It is interesting how this has flagged a lot of comments in a volatile sense. This may reflect a sort of larger idea how the community sees the issue.

I think the grand marshal thing aside we do need to acknowledge that this gentleman did in fact act with bravery. When the Rekkers tried to make up some items to save himself, Roman spoke up about what his view of the situation was. He did not let Rekkers get away with lies. His true act of heroics comes from the fact that he probably knew full well how he would be received by the public (which again, is reflective in these comments), but he did the right thing.

But how we treat others who are less reputable representation of the community is rather appalling. I have a hard time with the idea that we instinctively react to those who may embarrass the community with closeting their existence. This guy acted with bravery and contributed to this national conversation. He had stated he did not know Rekkers history prior, but once he knew he started to talk about the experiences. I have respect for him and I respect Father Tony for bringing this issue up. Thank you.

As for the marshal debate, I think Alex pointed out a few choices that I would never agree with. That is a whole other argument to withstand.

Jo-vanni Roman deserves better treatment than what we, the queer community, have been giving him. I don't know about him being the grand marshal of any parades but this young man needs a scholarship at the least.

"Even when we see a man enter a gay sex cub, we should not make assumptions about what he does therein."

By the time he enters the cub, I think it's too late for assumptions...

Dear SubtleKnife,
I have corrected what everyone will assume to have been a Freudian slip.

OK Father Toni now go back and fix the quip about the boy sticking his finger in the dike (just teasing).

I read all these comments. What has always puzzled me is why the press showed up in the first place. If I were to pick a hero it would be the bloodhound who sniffed out Rekers taking a vacation with a young man in tow. That person may have just swung the Florida Governor's race to the Democrat candidate which in my opinion is worthy of high honors and a ticker tape parade in Tallahassee.

Thanks for such a thought provoking article!

I, too, agree that Constance deserves a grand marshal designation but Jo-vanni does not. (I hope to make it to NYC to cheer her on!) As I read through the post, and the subsequent comments, I asked myself, "Why do I feel this way?" No one seems to have reached the same conclusion as me.

Perhaps what is at the crux here is what constitutes the qualities of being honored by one's community.

In my opinion, a grand marshal should be a hero. One that provides inspiration and gives us all a voice. Those who stand up in the face of great personal risk (political career, employment, physical harm, harassment, dishonorable discharge, jail time, etc.) and proclaim, "It's OK to be gay and I'm not going to let anyone treat me/us like crap!"

I'd contend that all of us can identify with Constance and Dan Choi being the victim of some form of discrimination. We celebrate those that take back the power, who stand up to their bullies as many of us lack(ed) the strength to do, and bring national validation to our long-held deep feelings, concerns and desires.

Jo-vanni doesn't offer the same qualities, at least for me. I don't identify with him. His struggle doesn't feel at all like mine. Did he do a good thing? Yes, when the chips were down. Do I think he's a bad person because he's a sex worker? No; honestly, I don't think much about him one way or the other, and maybe that's the point. He and his story don't connect with me and therefore don't inspire me to be a better person.

Gavin: of all the words written in response to Father Tony's article, you probably express the opinion of the mainstream gay community. Jo-Vanni is a an opportunist, a 15 minutes of fame example of the American appetite for a flash in the pan. The guy is a hooker, but let's not create the new Magdalene.

Gays and lesbians throughout the world are making a difference without pandering to the shrill siren calls of the gay extreme left. I am inspired as a gay man by the thousands of teachers, doctors, political leaders, small business folks, and parents who live their lives as contributors on the great journey.

Reality TV America spawns support for Jo-Vanni. Let's not reinforce the sideshow version of gay rights any longer.