A History of BoyChat by Alexis
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A History of BoyChat by Alexis was first added to the Free Spirits website in the late 1990's. It covers the history of the early years of BoyChat from 1995 to 1997. It was later added to Alexis's own website called "Alexis's Mindscape".
A History of BoyChat
Here are the URLs of BoyChat to date:
The table of contents is divided according to the URLs:
Prologue: Free Spirits and the origins of BoyChat (mid-1994 - 12/95)
The original BoyChat was hosted on Kasper's pioneering "Free Spirits" website, an encyclopedic collection of boylove and boy-related links and information. "Free Spirits" went up in Fall 1995.
The name "Free Spirits" seems to go back even further, however, to the origins of the online boylover community, the alt.fan.teen-idols newsgroup and the #afti IRC channel founded by Jody. These started up sometime in the middle of 1994. Toward the end of 1994, Acolyte, a regular on alt.fan.teen-idols, put up a teen idol FTP site containing various pictures in archives. One of these archives, the only one not to feature stars, was called "Free Spirits", and contained various pictures of gorgeous boys hanging out on the beach, by the pool and so on. The pictures were, of course, perfectly innocent and legal -- celebrations of the beauty of boys. But they seemed particularly revolutionary because they were pictures of anonymous boys rather than young teen stars. They could not be mistaken for any kind of fandom. Rather, they boldly declared one thing: the love and admiration of boys, whether actors, stars or kids on the street.
I don't know whether Kasper borrowed the name "Free Spirits" from this archive, or whether "Free Spirits" was a book or other collection that existed previous to Jody's FTP site. (Adam The Baroque Keyboardist tells me that one volume of the series Boyphoto is subtitled "Free Spirits", and I have also come across the phrase in other boylover related contexts.) In any case, Acolyte soon took the site down because interlopers were uploading questionable material to it.
Kasper's page belonged to a new generation of boylove web pages. It was divided into sections on literature and stories, politics and information, boylove homepages, pictures ("one of the most popular sections", the index page said) and miscellaneous. It went further out on a limb than the a.f.t-i sites had and posted some risque links, for example to a gay erotic stories archive that included stories about boys, and a list of web pages written by actual boys (a section "removed due to certain requests"). Kasper made no bones about the purpose of the site.
1. Kasper's BoyChat (12/95-4/96)
BoyChat appeared on the "Free Spirits" site about three months into it. Kasper later made the following post about the first day of BoyChat:
Perhaps many of you guessed from my message '44 sleeps to go' that BoyChat's Birthday was indeed looming up on us. As I will be on holidays until late Jan/early Feb next year and unsure if I will have access to the 'Net I thought it was time for a little lesson in Internet-Boy-Loving history. :)
At least one of these guys still posts semi-regularly on BoyChat! Kasper himself, sadly, has not been seen since he posted this little announcement.
A small crew of regulars soon appeared on Kasper's site, let their hair down and got to know each other. The tone of BoyChat was very different then, more like a familial gathering than the organized support forum of today. Posters were figuring out rules and etiquette as they went along. Of course, regular netiquette guidelines offered some sort of basis for behavior, but the pressures of paranoia, fear and simple unease in talking about a forbidden subject meant that there were further complications.
As an observer, I was impressed and scared by how much the first posters revealed about themselves (not that much) and how much love and warmth they showed for each other (an enormous emount). BoyChat personae developed quickly, and it was easy to remember people. Nicks were somewhat more unusual and varied than they are today, some of them obviously 9-character IRC nicks in origin.
BoyChat instantly exploded my notion that all boylovers belonged to some single type. It was a typically varied group for a net gathering, small as it was. The earliest regular posters included people from Ireland, England, Switzerland, Taiwan, Australia, Germany, Canada and the U.S. Ages ranged from 15 to 65. The one thing everyone had in common was that they were all male. One thread inquiring whether there were any female boylovers out there elicited one response from a woman who said she had a twelve year old lover and that she "liked them hairless". Her authenticity and honesty remain in question.
Several of the posters from those early months of 1996 on Kasper's site are still around today; their views and personalities have helped shape the mores and customs of an emerging online community. Others have long since vanished, but their impact is still felt. Here are brief descriptions of some of the earliest posters and how their stories affected me.
Jam_man. Still active today, Jam's overwhelming love for humanity and his openness about his own personal story have influenced hundreds of subsequent posters. Jam always lays his cards on the table and talks about the most painful and difficult subjects. He always tries to understand other people's positions -- even trolls and flamers. He is not afraid to court rejection or question taboos, particularly related to sexuality.
Hugger. Hugger, and another early poster, Loren, blew my mind by giving us the viewpoints of older people. It was through Hugger that I realized that boylovers could be happily married -- and still have young friends! It had never occurred to me that a boylover could be anything but gay, as I was. Through Loren I learned what it was like to be a boylover in the 1940s and '50s. I gained a deep sense of our history from these guys. Loren is long since departed. Hugger still posts occasionally.
Songmaster. SM was unabashedly into heavy metal and progressive rock, and more importantly was unafraid to reveal his darker side or to lash out in flames. Fiercely loyal to his friends, SM never hesitated to share his personal history, his love-hate relationships with therapy, and his experiences with teen boys. He was the first poster I read who did not shy away from discussing sex and teens. Unlike Jam_man and Hugger, he also seemed familiar with the fringes of society like I was. He was clearly far from Middle America and married life, and did not hesitate to broadcast his distaste for women. His spirit lives on (sometimes literally).
The Little Prince. Originally posting a frantic plea from a dorm-basement terminal as "Scared Shitless", 19-year-old LP was the second boylover-teen to appear on BC. His earthy, warm "dude" style won him many friends, but he first really came across when he gave us nearly real-time reportage on some horribly traumatic events going on in his life. Since I knew I was a boylover when I was a teenager, boylover-teens have always made a huge impact on me. I followed LP's story obsessively. He was so clearly real. LP is still around, although he mostly posts supportively to others now, or enlightens the "bored" with his goofy sense of humor.
Andrew~MBL, one of the first posters to stress the spiritual aspects of boylove, raised the sex issue -- to do it, or not to do it? Andrew openly advocated it. Bull, in contrast, repeatedly made the argument that sex with boys of any age was harmful if only because society deemed it harmful and that therefore the boy would feel shame and guilt even if he had enjoyed the experience. Dane supported this view, telling the board about how he had resisted temptation. Once more, these posters were extraordinarily open and honest with the board.
Milk and Cookies, along with Jam_man and others, took the position that sex is inherently good, and that denying the needs of the youthful human body could be as damaging as societal disapproval. Coming from an educated, activist and gay background, Milk and Cookies posted informatively and literately about politics, literature and music. I was amazed that anyone out there on BoyChat was into a comparatively obscure band that I liked myself. Once I got to know him, I discovered that M&C was a limitless pool of knowledge and opinion.
Encephalon has been the foremost of those posters who bring their professional expertise to the board. His legal advice has constantly reassured posters and lurkers who otherwise might have been tempted to go elsewhere. It doesn't hurt that he also understands computers and the Net very well. Encef continues to illuminate the board with his wisdom.
Other extremely early posters, in addition to the ones listed by Kasper in his post above, included the poet and philosopher roo, jongen, Captain, Gandalf, Crobin, Bristol, bubu, Futte-, Gareth, Ganymede, Hopeful, Justin, Kronos, Steffen Sinatra, Manni, jay_h, Sparky/Stacey, Rook, Root, The Uranian, and doubtless many others I'm forgetting.
By March 1996, traffic (if still mostly lurkers) was getting too heavy for Kasper's site to handle. Once again, I'll let Kasper describe it in his own words:
This popularity was far beyond expectation and was wreaking havoc with my daily web traffic quota's, my account just couldn't handle the traffic BoyChat was creating so the time came to search for a new server. From memory I managed to host BoyChat until late March when the great jongen volunteered to take over. We moved BC over to his newly formed 'www.boylove.org' server and we were away again. BoyChat stayed with jongen for a little while but became too intensive and now jongen was looking for someone else to take over.
Here's how jongen described the transfer:
First, a little bit of history about BoyChat. It first made its debut last year on Free Spirits, a web site of a similar theme to this one. It quickly became very popular -- in fact, it soon began to receive so many requests every day that it was causing the daily hit quota on Free Spirits to be exceeded. When the quota was exceeded, the entire site would be locked out from further visits until the following day. Needless to say, this became very frustrating to those for whom BoyChat had become a much-needed source of support and companionship.
2. The jongen Months (4/96-5/96)
Still a lurker, I was astonished to discover that someone would risk setting up a domain called "boylove.org", but jongen was the guy to do it. Young, smart and strong-minded, he was actually taking even greater risks, because he was living in a country with sharper restrictions on free speech than the U.S.
A little while before jongen took over, I saw the first troll post on BoyChat. Trolls are people who cruise the Net trying to stir up trouble, whether by breaking rules, posing as other people or otherwise wreaking havoc. This post was entitled something like "The boy I met on the street", and it described an alleged erotic encounter with a young boy. The guy took him back to his apartment. Kasper deleted the post, but not the index entry to it, at the request of several regulars. Everyone was afraid that such posts, fiction or not, would lower the tone of the board and possibly cause Kasper's host to remove it.
jongen immediately instituted much stricter rules -- the strictest that BoyChat has ever had. There was to be no discussion of sex whatsoever! People could talk about themselves and their young friends and literature, but they could not discuss sex. They could not even quote literature that described anything explicit. jongen was simply not going to take those risks with his provider and with his government.
The board got a lot cleaner, although traffic was up -- and not just in the posts from the regulars. BoyChat was now indexed on the major Internet search engines, and more and more people were visiting and creating troll posts and flames. jongen deleted these posts as soon as they appeared! But he remained uneasy about the volume and the content of the board. He simply did not have time to patrol it. He posted several frustrated warnings that he would have to take down the board if people did not keep it clean.
Here is one of jongen's celebrated warnings.
Here is another, more emotional one (and current-day posters think Jimf3 can be difficult sometimes! but this is a good reminder of the stress involved in administering BoyChat).
The strict rules may have encouraged trolls and flamers, or perhaps it was just the increased visibility of the board. In any case several celebrated troublemakers appeared at this time, the most notorious of whom was Gestappo. This guy posted an endless stream of posts containing various smutty admonitions, mainly consisting of phrases such as "Heil Hitler! Die scumbags. Eat pussy." It's hard now that the board is so big to appreciate the initial impact of seeing graffiti like this in one's treasured refuge. Gestappo attracted rebuttals almost as fast as jongen could remove them. Songmaster in particular lunged for the bait every time that Gestappo appeared, creating some of the first flamewars. The posts and rebuttals sloped away diagonally to the lower right-hand corner of the screen.
One day jongen got so angry he abruptly removed the site for a day or two to let everyone simmer for a bit. Bristol put up a temporary board on his own page (called "Boys...") called BoyTalk to substitute for a bit. BoyTalk and other similar projects would become a frequent refuge in times to come.
Finally jongen had had enough, and announced in mid-May that he would be removing BoyChat entirely in 9 days. If anyone else wanted to step in, they were free to.
3. Sean007: The Interim Link (5/96)
Out of the blue a fairly reticent poster called Sean007 announced that he didn't have much web experience but that he would like to host BoyChat. Sean published an interim link to a page that he said would list the real link to the new BoyChat host as soon as he found one. Strangely enough, this interim link was still up a year later, when I wrote this! (Although it has finally disappeared now.) This odd fact gives an intriguing clue about the subsequent development of BoyChat under Sean's guidance.
Sean was a surprising volunteer. Only an occasional poster, he had mainly appeared posting supportively and briefly. Whereas both Kasper and jongen were voluble and opiniated, Sean was short and cryptic, though always warm. Few people knew much about him.
Amidst doubts and fear, boylove.org went down around the end of May 1996. Regular posters repeatedly checked the simple, uninformative page at the interim link, waiting for information.
4a. Sean007: The Early Days of Digiweb (6/96-8/96)
After only 2 days, a link appeared on the interim page to digiweb.com. Sean had succeeded in finding a provider and moving the board! It turned out that he stayed with jongen's provider, Digiweb. Digiweb was destined to host BoyChat for nearly a full year.
Digiweb was undergoing changes. Unlike Kasper's provider, which limited accesses severely (you had to remember to visit "Free Spirits" early in the evening -- by midnight EST the page had always been accessed too many times), or Digiweb in the days of jongen, which was frequently down, the new Digiweb was becoming professional. The site was almost always accessible and loaded quickly and efficiently in comparison with before.
Nearly all the regular posters -- whose numbers had more than doubled since Kasper's time -- reappeared, congratulating each other on having made it through the draught, all almost unable to believe their luck that the board had survived. Even Gestappo reappeared (as he had ominously announced that he would just before jongen went down).
New posters of the late-jongen/early-Sean period included some longtime regulars and characters. Ben made himself famous for the sign-off "You are not alone" and a strict diet of unfailingly straight-faced support. balancer wrote intense, warm and honest posts about his life and his feelings that touched everyone's hearts (and frequently set off some discussion). Kelson Haldane had a mysterious obsession with cows, and also came up with the first plan to register nicknames against imposters (never implemented). Etenne appeared around this time too. johnnieK and Quinn traded off flamingly gay cut-ups with each other and commiserated warmly with anyone sad or lonely. noah gave regular updates on his life with his young friend Sam, posted in a vivid, all-lowercase style that left readers breathless for the next installment. Scandinavian boylovers Clayboy and White Knight posted similarly intimate personal stories. No Future posted a series of incredibly depressed, suicidal posts and gathered dozens of replies. Secret Lover berated No Future and others for not just going out and finding himself a boy, and then found himself in a flamewar with other posters who found this shock treatment inappropriate.
Sean asked the regulars to come up with a set of rules. And Encephalon wrote the "7 Rules" which you now have to read every time you post. To quote:
Here are the Seven rules
But in general Sean held back from interfering on the board, for better or worse. Flames, trolls and risque posts all stayed up. He also held back from trimming the index file, with the result that old posts stayed up for much longer. BoyChat was beginning to look like a different place. With its newfound stability, more and more people were "delurking" (or as someone said around this time, "decloaking -- I hate the term 'delurking'"), and the BC family was becoming much larger.
One interesting result of Sean's laissez-faire attitude was that the community became more self-policing. If Gestappo wrote a flame, someone would post pointing out to newbies that he was just a troublemaker, not someone to take seriously. If someone posted erotica or links to picture sites, regulars would post admonitions and explanations of the risks involved. If someone posted as someone else, regular posters would instantly leap in pointing out that the posts were fake, and explaining why -- frequently before the imposterized individual even realized that he had been impostered! Songmaster and Milk and Cookies were particular experts at recognizing fake posts, and could list arcana of punctuation, style, sign-offs and even timezones to explain why a post had to be fake ("so-and-so always posts between 10 and 12 PM EST"). They were true scholars of BoyChat.
Strangely, at least two regular flamers of the early days became "converts" and regular posters. Had they converted to BoyLove? It seems likely that they were already self-hating boylovers who came to understand and accept themselves through meeting a community of people who turned out not to be monsters after all. Capt. Morality, a hectoring father whose son had had relations with his football coach, revealed his boyloving side and became Darrin. Gestappo, of all people, turned good and took the ridiculous nick Good Gestappo.
These were only the two most egregious examples of BoyChat's power to transform and renew how we think about ourselves, however, In greater or lesser measure, the same kind of transformation and rebirth has taken place with every regular poster, and no doubt dozens of lurkers as well. The darkest poster of all, No Future, saw the light, went to visit another boylover, and accepted the recommendation of one well-known regular by changing his nick to Bright Future Dude.
Nearly all the regular topics and debates had fully crystallized by this period, including:
However, another issue would split BoyChat apart more violently than anything ever had before. It remains endemic even though the community has since developed ways to deal with it.
4b. Jamie, Randy and the first hoax controversy (5/96-7/96)
Two new posters appeared in May and created enormous controversy on the board. The first was Jamie, a 14 year old boy posting about his discovery of sex and masturbation, particularly with his friend and agemate, Mark, who also posted occasonally. Sometimes Jamie and Mark would post dozens of time a day; the posts were descriptive but not too explicit. They attracted a bevy of posters offering advice, support and probably a certain degree of infatuation.
The second was Randy, a 19 year old millionaire living somewhere in Southern California. Randy posted an evolving love story about himself and a 13 year old boy named Andy. Andy also had a best friend whose name I've forgotten. Regulars followed Randy's story breathlessly, which led up to him receiving custody of Andy, who had a bad home life. Some chapters hinted at sexual experimentation between the boys.
Around the same time, sometime in late June or early July, a number of posters began to make doubting comments about the existence of 14 year old Jamie, and about the authenticity of the Randy/Andy affair. Jamie did not seem to notice, though he was told repeatedly by jongen to keep his posts clean (he would improve briefly, then change the topic back to masturbation), but Randy flew off the handle and threatened to leave the board.
Jamie didn't leave, but rather moved over to Chathaven, a now-defunct BoyChat set up by Sean for boy posters. After all the abuse that Jamie had suffered on BoyChat, it seemed like a good idea to provide a "haven" for the boys to discuss issues on their own terms. This also removed some the danger inherent in having an open chat board for boylovers and boys. Chathaven thrived for several months, but more or less petered out by Fall 1996. Some real boys certainly posted there, notably Jeremy (Fox), who was also seen on BoyChat at the time.
Both the Jamie and the Randy/Andy affairs first raised doubts about the authenticity of posters, especially boy posters. A certain level of trust had existed in BoyChat from the beginning, particularly when there were only a dozen or so regular posters. As the board became better publicized, however, more and more hoaxes appeared. At this time, there was still no consensus on how to deal with them. Regular posters and old friends took opposite sides, and the biggest flamewars ever occurred in discussions over the hoaxes.
Doubts about Randy and his boys multiplied when Andy and his best friend reputedly took over Randy's computer in his absence and posted some explicit details about games they had been playing with each other. Several regular posters rallied to Randy's defense, but Randy threatened to leave BoyChat for good. After much pleading, he agreed to stay, but after a second wave of doubters, he departed for good in late June or early July of 1996.
4c. Threatening to leave (5/96 - )
BoyChat in Sean's early days still included almost all of the original "family". Only Loren and Andrew~MBL of the original posters had vanished. It was not usual for people to disappear, and when someone did so, a flurry of posts would appear asking for news of them.
However, several regulars did begin to post threatening that they would leave BoyChat for good, whether because they were fed up, bored, not spending enough time with real boys or real-life friends, or because they were receiving negative feedback or inadequate attention from the board. Typically, a threat to leave post would be titled "I'm leaving", and it would frequently draw a number of supportive replies titled "Don't leave!"
Threats to leave have become a topos or theme of BoyChat. Perhaps the most well-known leaver in the early days was Dane, who would frequently say that he was leaving and then reappear only two or three days later, no questions asked. Other regular leavers have included Ben, Little Prince, Quinn, Dennis2, The Frog Prince (and his subsequent identities) and others. Much to the improvement of the board, all these people ultimately stuck around.
4d. Politics and heated discussion (summer 1996).
Several new posters in summer 1996 brought radical political views to the board. Such views were not necessarily new -- Milk and Cookies had expounded them from the earliest days -- but they were now being propounded with more energy. They soon provoked energetic responses, and with the group growing fast, the debates frequently developed into flamewars.
The "new radicals" included Adam Selene, -wps-, Denny and Roy Radow, with older posters balancer, Songmaster and Milk and Cookies frequently chiming in on their side. Against them was the so-called "anti-sex" crew, including Martyn (later Corydon), William, Toddler and tj. The radicals eventually took most of their debates over to a new political board hosted by Bristol, called Freedom. (Freedom is now defunct, along with the rest of Bristol's site.) Some of the debates had actually begun on Bristol's other board, a fiction and poetry posting site called BoyWrite, and then migrated to BoyChat.
At least one regular changed his identity, and his nick, to The Clarifier to argue the anti-sex case. The Clarifier berated regular posters and newbies alike, often in a judgmental and threatening tone. Although he soon disappeared, the double personality of that particular poster became a familiar theme for other boylovers caught in denial and mixed feelings about their sexual attraction to boys.
4e. Other new posters and themes: the first Digiweb crisis (summer 1996)
July and August 1996 saw a vast increase in posting volume and delurking. New posters at this time included Jon, Mr. Pink, Gazza, Rabbit, William, Willy Wonka, Nafai, Soran, Hulann, Chris (only 17 years old), Eton and myself, Alexis. The fashion on the board at this time was for vignettes of everyday life, and these manifested themselves in two ways. The first was the series of "chance encounters" threads, in which posters described chance meetings with boys out in the world, varying from making friends to simply seeing a cutie across the room. A subset of these were discussions about "boydar", the boylover equivalent of "gaydar", in which boys were sometimes able to spot a boylover from miles away and gravitate right toward him. The second were regular updates on posters' lives with their young friends, often described in a day-to-day diary form. noah was the first to do this, but William, Willy Wonka, Crobin and BenB followed his lead in a series of lively and often very personal narratives.
BoyChat in these days was still very splintered. Very few posters put up an email address, and when they did, it was usually via the anonymous remailer service anon.penet.fi. Nobody used other services; Hotmail did not even exist yet. Kasper still retained a list of BoyChat posters and email addresses on the Free Spirits site in case the board went down, but this was already outdated by July.
People were getting onto IRC for the first time, and this was helping to forge new connections. BoyChat posters tended to be first-time net users and not as tech-smart as regular IRC users; but DragN, Accord and Choirboy began to post regular "how-to" updates and invitations to IRC channels for BC neophytes. The main channel on IRC at this time was still #asbl.
In August, Sean and Accord established BOYLINKS, the most comprehensive list of boy-related links ever compiled. BOYLINKS was so complete and so well-maintained that many regular webmasters dropped their link pages and instead put in a single all-purpose link to BOYLINKS. Older sites such as Free Spirits, Steffen's "European Boylover's Homepage" and Deepend's "Boys..." fell into disuse and were eclipsed by BOYLINKS and a concomitant new rash of linked boylover support sites.
In mid-August, two events put the new IRC skills to the test: first, anon.penet.fi was taken down by its owner following an investigation by the Finnish government, and second, Digiweb abruptly took down BoyChat because of internal questions regarding its content. With anonymous email unavailable, worried BoyChatters hastened to IRC to find out what was going on. Fortunately, Sean007 was an IRC regular, and he dropped in on the channels frequently over the course of the next 24 hours to let the group know what was going on.
Digiweb, it turned out, had cottoned on to BOYLINKS and was worried about the legality of the site and their liability. They were chiefly worried that BOYLINKS might link to porn sites, and that men might be using BoyChat to meet boys in real life for the purpose of illegal activity. Sean007 went to Digiweb and explained exactly BoyChat and BOYLINKS, and that they did not promote breaking any laws. Digiweb agreed to put both BoyChat and BOYLINKS back up on a trial basis, with monitoring to ensure that no laws were broken.
5. The ivan.net domain: growth and transformation (9/96)
Fall 1996 saw some momentous changes in BoyChat's make-up and its overall "vibe". Many old regulars dropped out of sight or only posted sporadically, and a new crew came on board. Unlike the summer newbies, many of the new fall posters had not been lurking ever since the Kasper and jongen days. They were unfettered by some of the traditional notions of a BC "family". This brought advantages and disadvantages. While the warmth and unfailing support of a group who all knew each other intimately was now gone or diminished, new and tougher questions were being attacked, and new posters were not afraid to challenge consensuses that had been built up and, perhaps wrongly, had solidified into stone for the old regulars.
At the same time, the posting volume had increased even more. Sean007 had installed a counter on August 12, 1996, and it logged 20,000 hits in one month. This rate would double over the next six months. The "new wave" of BoyChat posters beginning that September, most of whom are still active today, included Jimf3, green, pony, The Frog Prince (since known successively as Pukjoy, Melon, Jyme and as of this writing, Eljie), Lakeside, Wu-k'ung, klatu, Olaf, Simba, Lysis, Forty-something, Toby, Tristan and coonigan.
A new group of teen posters also appeared. There had been a few teens in the past, notably Little Prince and the English Chris (Cuddles), but September 1996 saw a whole wave of newer and younger teens, who were enormously influential on BoyChat's development. These included Tygyr (17), Soaken (15) and Mikey (17). It had not been unusual for teen boys to post, but these three were all self-described boy-lovers, and not one of them was out of high school.
Tygyr also posted energetically about his suicidal feelings when he had been 14 and had longed for the love of a man. He described himself as not just a boylover, but a manlover. Articulate and activist, he set up a website called TygyrNet that called for the emancipation of teens such as himself and the abolition of the age of consent worldwide.
It's only fair to mention our one teen flamer, also from this period. miiji (16), posting from a non-English speaking country, told the board about his class paper on pedophilia and child abuse. He attracted many responses and a fair amount of criticism, but he remained convinced that he was correct. Assuming that he was real, he also discussed BoyChat with his class and his classmates, and concluded that although some of the posters here might be good people, in essence the idea of boylove was wrong.
We heard about more boys on BoyChat that September than at any other time before or since. Since I don't think it's appropriate to recount others' personal stories, I'd rather celebrate these wonderful kids with a list of the nicks that their older friends gave them in their posts on BC. Here are some of the most memorable ones of the period:
(Points to anyone who can remember which of these young friends go with which BC poster.)
6a. ivan.net.outbound in Fall 1996 (9/96-12/96)
Fall 1996 was a time of consolidation and communal self-analysis. It saw a rash of surveys and catalogs of information about BoyChat posters, along with a growing consensus about how controversial topics would be handled. One huge controversy in early December nearly unravelled the group, but ultimately made it stronger: what came to be known as "the tradj affair."
A number of posters launched different types of surveys. William was the first, asking everyone to answer a series of simple questions: nick, age, location on earth, young friends and their ages (if any), hobbies and interests. Although some people were terrified at the idea of publicizing this much information, William eventually received about 50 responses to his post. I and some other people compiled the responses and came up with some interesting statistics, which I have, unfortunately, mislaid.
green began a series of "questions of the week", each one a question or challenge to be met. These were enormously popular and generated megabytes of response and debate. Some of his questions were "Describe your ideal boy", "How do you feel about the labels straight, gay or other," "How did you meet your young friend," and so on.
Clayboy and later lilboys set up surveys of BoyChatters via their web pages, and posted the results. Clayboy's survey generated statistics that were surprisingly similar to those generated from William's list, possibly because exactly the same regulars answered each survey. The numbers used are too small to offer any statistical reliability anyway.
Tygyr and later green chose a more impressionistic tack by soliciting the life stories of boylovers (whether BC regulars or not). They later posted these on their websites. green's "Boylovers Speak Out!" and Tygyr's personal histories section contained heartrending stories of love and loss.
Wu-k'ung announced that he had been maintaining an archive of BoyChat posts since early September. The archive did not include every single post, but most major thread-starters and any interesting follow-ups were included. This is the only known archive of BoyChat posts at the time of this writing.
Kasper posted twice to announce that BoyChat's one-year anniversary would be approaching on December 29th (the second of these messages is reproduced above). In honor of the anniversary I began compiling a complete list of BoyChat posters' nicks, which I posted to the board and have since kept on my web page (and continue to update). I was inspired by Dusty's first post near this time, which listed many of the nicks of regulars whose posts he had read in his months of lurking. It required a lot of research and the help of other people, but I think it's pretty complete. (If you're not on the list, please mail me.)
Sean007 and Bonzo organized a New Year's Eve party on IRC to celebrate the anniversary. (Bonzo now denies his involvement, but I am certain of it :) It took place on the channel #bcparty from 2 PM EST on 12/31/96 to about 3 AM EST on 1/1/97. Hundreds of people showed up, including some long-vanished posters from BC's earliest days, and they were greeted with johnnieK's signature cry, "[your nick here], You Are Such A Pervert!" The feeling of conviviality was intense.
The fall was a time of stress as well as a time of celebration. Some old posters found the new, larger BoyChat a less friendly place. New posters such as The Frog Prince, klatu and Jimf3 were more likely to challenge tacit norms and respected (but to them, unfamiliar) posters. Heated argument broke out on several subjects such as the value of Christianity, the seduction of boys, the level of support automatically offered to newcomers and board "civility" or manners.
In the midst of this time of change, on December 1st, tradj appeared on the scene with a heartrending story. tradj and his friend tagar were teen boys who were being held against their will in a cabin somewhere in Canada near the U.S. border. Communicating secretly via a computer in the cabin, his vivid story and his plan to escape immediately drew volleys of support from the board.
What happened next is confusing, but the gist is that tradj and tagar did escape, with the help of at least one BoyChat regular, and that they made their way to safety, first in California, and then somewhere in Colorado. tradj posted more and more frequently, now from a WebTV console that he had acquired, perhaps from his new foster-family.
tradj's style consisted of a certain amount of broken English and bad spelling, and the combination of these stereotypically "childish" traits and what was frankly an outlandish story drew sharp suspicion from some posters. Almost immediately a debate broke out on board: was tradj "real"? Was he a real boy, was his story real?
My own doubts on the subject were at first quelled by a couple of posters who said that they had seen reports of the escape on television news programs, but later these stories turned out to be second-hand and unreliable. Another poster said that he had spoken to tradj on the phone, and yet another said that he had met tradj and tagar in person and even given them a ride at one point in their escape.
tradj's own posts, incoherent as they were, did not shed any light on the situation, and neither did his habit of posting (apparently) under different nicks, such as "jdart" (tradj backwards). He subsequently claimed that many of posts were in fact troll posts by someone else, particularly some posts filled with obscenities and shouting.
The details of the tradj affair will probably never be known, although Wu-k'ung did an admirable job of analyzing them months later; click here to see his careful examination of the events. The fallout, however, was considerable.
Essentially, the tradj affair resurrected the "boy poster" controversy, which went all the way back to Jamie, and which would continue to re-erupt right up to the present day. Other examples include Anibal, Criss, Cyrix and Aptiva, and the occasional controversies about the websites of gay youths daniel_13 and his friends (who never posted to BoyChat).
Several posters became very wrapped up in the morals of the situation. The four viewpoints can pretty much be summed up as follows:
The consensus has perhaps finally settled at #2. Certainly boy posters no longer get as many suspicious and unfriendly responses as they once did. Some boy posters, such as Criss, settled in for weeks of posting and became regular parts of the board. Even here occasional controversies would erupt. The issue promises to continue to be controversial.
Just before the end of 1996, several new posters arrived on the scene, notably the warm but irascible Llewellyn, the budding boylove activist Adam the Baroque Keyboardist, the argumentative Jerry T. Ramsey, and other self-questioning souls such as mikeee and Olaf.
Some of the new fall posters were building up powerful personae on the board, particularly Jimf3, who came to BoyChat with a strong background in gay activism, and The Frog Prince, who combined an aesthetic of mystical detachment with a sharp tongue and occasional outbursts of love and support.
Adam brought the memories and perspective of a former "loved boy" to the board. This was a new theme echoed by Tygyr and later loverboy. Their views coincided with those of the website of David, a 13 year old involved in a loving relationship with a man (called "Stop Protecting Me!"), but not with those of daniel_13 and his friends, who espoused boylove, "but only when it involves two boys." All these issues and stories enlivened BoyChat considerably, and also revived the old question about whether it was possible for some boylovers to have relationships with other adults.
6b. ivan.net.outbound in Winter and Spring of 1997 (1/97-5/97)
BoyChat in the aftermath of #bcparty and the end of the tradj affair was an ebullient, proud place. Posts appeared more quickly than ever before; regulars traded in-jokes, and new posters delurked at the rate of about 10 a week. The counter climbed and climbed, hitting 100,000 hits (since August 12) by February.
More and more regulars set up boylove websites, which were cataloged on Boylinks, more people got on IRC, and more people had public email addresses than ever before. Some of the day-to-day joking and chatting which had consumed the early days of BoyChat had now been removed to other forums, and the board contained more of substance (and hence gained a more serious tone).
One popular place for boylove websites was the free (and anonymous) web hosting service Geocities, at the time of this writing the second largest site on the Web. Unfortunately Geocities liked to proclaim that it was family-oriented, and several sites, including Tristan's, had been yanked in the fall because they included pictures. The new rash of Geocities websites more or less eschewed pictures: they included my own page, Justin's, green's, Tygyr's (pulled twice and re-erected under new Geocities addresses) and others.
As the winter progressed, Geocities became more and more vigilant about policing boylove websites, even ones that adhered to their own published guidelines (no pornography or links to pornography) and even went beyond these guidelines (no pictures at all, or links to pictures). Successively, Geocities deleted all the above-named sites with no warning and no explanation. Deleted files were not returned, even after repeated requests. Nor was any explanation or defense ever offered.
In debates on the board, posters such as Encephalon and Pukjoy pointed out that boylovers did not have a leg to stand on, legally (or even ethically) speaking. Geocities is a free, private service, and as such, can discriminate as capriciously as they please. It still rankled to see their site praised even in relatively radical and hip publications like Wired after we had experienced their kneejerk discrimination.
Another popular free (anonymous) hosting service was Tripod, which had been hosting Clayboy and White Knight for some time. Others of us joined Tripod too, and from February to April 1997, this would prove sufficient. Little did we suspect what was to come.
Nevertheless, the newly active Jimf3 decided to set up his own domain to host boylover web pages, in tandem with Tygyr. They called it FPC Net, and offered free anonymous web space to boylovers, particularly ones who planned to address issues relating to history and politics. FPC was hosted by Digiweb, and started hosting pages in early April.
BoyChat in the aftermath of the tradj affair had become a more friendly place for boy posters. Criss was a lonely 13 year old looking for friends; he joined in January and soon found a group of regular supporters. He was completely aware of the purpose of the board, but was not interested in a relationship with a man, just in finding adults who would talk to him and not treat him condescendingly.
Criss disappeared from the board abruptly in late February; it was only much later, in August of 1997 that Llewellyn posted the whole story of what had happened. Everyone should read this story, which says more about boys, boylovers and BoyChat's capacity for good than this entire history can say. Click on that link and then come back here.
Aptiva and Cyrix were a high school boy and a junior high boy who described their developing affair as regulars sat on the edge of their seats, in February and March. In May and June, Kyp, a 16 year old boylover, described his sad separation from his young friend.
In the friendlier atmosphere of the spring, several old posters who had dropped out reappeared. Jimf3 came back after a two-month absence. The Frog Prince came back after his spectacular self-implosion in January, and though he has changed nicks several times, has not been absent for more than a week since then. Songmaster returned as well, with the new nick TPFKAS, and it has been one of the worst-kept secrets on the board that the two are the same poster (congratulations to all the music fans out there who can figure out what his new nick stands for). Little Prince reappeared in May after months in deep lurk mode, spreading his particularly earthy form of good cheer. Soaken, the 15-year-old poster, came back in happier spirits, having met up with 17-year-old Mikey in real life and accepted himself as a boylover. Other old posters who reappeared included Ben, Dane (who appears to have left again after another debate on the sex issue), Hugger, along with two of BoyChat's earliest posters, John, now known as Camper, and roo, our resident mystic and sage, who after a several-month absence returned to enlighten and betwitch us with his verse-posts.
The spring also saw BoyChat's two most well-known non-boylover posters: Ally and Awaken Dad. Ally, perhaps BoyChat's only regular female poster, was a close friend of Justin's who had happened on BoyChat by accident. Having found out about boylove, she decided to do more research on the subject before confronting Justin about it. When she did, it was in a spirit of warm support and empathy. She has always been a firm friend of boylovers and BoyChatters. Awaken Dad, who began posting in January, was a father whose son and his son's young lover had died in a car crash. In trying to understand the stories of P.J. and Larry, particularly through their diaries, Awaken Dad came to realize that his son and his friend had suffered from the prevailing hatred of boylovers. Awaken Dad retained some reservations about sex, but nevertheless also remained firmly supportive of the board. Both Ally and Awaken Dad gave many BoyChat regulars faith in the ability of non-boylovers to understand and even accept us and our way of loving.
Another feature of the spring was real life meetings. Dozens of BoyChatters began to meet other BoyChatters as they got to know each other on IRC, email and on the phone. Frequently double or triple posts would result from these meetings. BoyChatters who met in real life and posted included: Ben and SethDove; Jam_man, Tygyr and -wps-; Alexis and Justin; Jimf3 and Alexis; waltz, Jam_man and Bonzo; Camper and The Brain; The Brain and Grampa Boylove; Alexis, Adam the Baroque Keyboardist and Jimf3; green and Sensitive Stephen; Llewellyn and Awaken Dad; and many others that I can't recall off the top of my head. The biggest one just occurred in late June: Camper, The Brain, Kalos (designer of the BL logo), Mike, CyberVince and PopaBear -- the complete Montréal Ganymède Collectif! (If I've left out a particularly important real-life meeting, please remind me!)
In the early days of BoyChat, members had wistfully fantasized about getting together for a picnic or a convention. The group had always dismissed the idea as dangerous and unrealizable. After all the meetings of Spring 1997, however, that picnic is looking closer and closer to becoming a reality!
New posters in Spring of 1997 included not, Avery, Uncle Bury, Great Wabbit, nishnabe, waltz, St. Mule, TeenBoy, loverboy, The Brain, Will, Speluncker, Rendel, Polt, Hadrian, Boxerboy, Nico, Skyeboy, Grampa Boylove (GB), Stephen, Ed, J (the li'l one), J (the lonely one), TexasJack, kalospais, Kolekona Paulo Keo'keo and many more.
6c. The CPAC crisis and the move to XtatiX (5/97)
In May, 1997, BoyChat faced and overcame its biggest challenge yet: online vigilanteism. As its profile was getting larger, more and more enemies out there on the Internet were taking note of BoyChat. Finally, a group of them formed an organization called CPAC, Child Protection and Advocacy Coalition, whose stated aim was to encourage people to "exercise their right of free speech against boylovers on the net." This doublespeak actually meant "deny boylovers free speech on the net."
CPAC and its allies, including in particular one Anne M. Cox and a retired army captain, set up their own posting forum on the web, along with a group of linked pages that designated so-called "sewer sites" on the net. The list of "sewer sites" included BoyChat, BOYLINKS and nearly every boylove or boy-related web page. Their list was so complete that some boylovers joked that it was a better resource than BOYLINKS.
CPAC also flooded Geocities, Tripod and Digiweb, along with their customers and clients, with mail protesting their hosting of boylove-related sites and threatening a boycott of their services. Despite their stated commitment to free speech, and despite the fact that all the sites adhered to its hosts' written guidelines, all three service providers pulled the plug on all their boylove sites.
Digiweb's capitulation was total. The company sent mail to Sean007, Jimf3, Accord, Balder and other long-term boylover customers, informing them that they had 14 days to find a new host.
A certain feeling of panic invaded the board. CPAC members and their allies posted some of the nastiest troll posts yet seen on BoyChat. Regulars openly wondered if this was to be the end of the new boylove community on the net. Webmasters who owned domain names, and hence publicly identifiable through InterNIC, began to worry that they might by "outed" by CPAC, whether online or in real life.
Instead, the online boylover community reacted fast, and much of the credit for this must go to Jimf3. He put up a post entitled "WE WIN!!!" on the day that the Digiweb ultimatum went out, and announced to everyone that this was our chance as boylovers to seize the day and take control of our online destinies. We would no longer have to kowtow to service providers or be menaced by vigilantes: with contributions from all regular members, BoyChatters could easily buy a server and be its own web host. Future organization could set up a nonprofit organization and fund programs to educate the public about boylove, protect free speech, and perhaps even subsidize boylovers' legal defense.
Jim and Sean007 got on the phone that evening and jointly posted a request for money. Within a week, more than $2000 had been raised. BoyChat had come a long way from its fearful, anonymous beginnings!
Meanwhile, other initiatives were being pursued. Jim talked to Bonzo, who had been hosting a BoyChat Technical Committee board for some time, about expanding this committee into a Steering Committee. Jim emailed some friends and some well-known webmasters, and the Technical Committee was enlarged into the BoyChat Steering Committee. Simultaneously, jongen briefly reappeared out of the woodwork and began the "blweb" mailing list, a mailing list limited to boylover webmasters, for the purpose of keeping boylove sites alive on the World Wide Web.
As the countdown at Digiweb proceeded, the Steering Committee frantically searched around for a new host that would be tolerant of BoyChat's content and resistant to any possible boycotts or similar CPAC vigilante actions. The challenge was to find a provider without many commercial customers, so that boycott pressure would be less effective. Plenty of providers said no. The board even considered the notorious CyberPromo provider, recently profiled in the New York Times, the source of much of the spamming junkmail sent out on the Net, and said to be open to any subject matter whatsoever.
Finally, green came up with XtatiX, a Texas-based service provider that loudly trumpeted the free speech cause. A detailed discussion of boylove and BoyChat with the owner did not faze him. We were in! After some technical hitches, BoyChat was transferred over to XtatiX on May 25, 1997. FPC Net and BOYLINKS followed shortly thereafter.
7-8. XtatiX (6/97)
At the time of this writing, BoyChat is one month old at its new host and in its new strengthened incarnation. But it's still a time of change. The Steering Committee is still struggling to buy a server, make a new fund drive, and even present its basic goals and plans to the BoyChat board. After a brief honeymoon where eveyrone loved everyone else, with must mutual backslapping and self-congratulation, flames and war have once again intervened. There have been some more nasty trolls getting more than their fair share of attention. The boy-poster controversy has raised its ugly head once more, with the same consensus reached as before, but not without some hurt feelings and name calling.
At the time of writing, the Steering Committee itself is causing some dissension on BoyChat. A community that grew up organically, largely under absent leadership, is having difficulty with the idea of authority and bureaucracy. At least one long-term and valued poster, klatu, threatened to leave disgruntled, and others may have actually done so. I myself have difficulties with the idea of a Committee and all it represents. Here is a recent post I made on the subject. I suspect further chapters will be written on this issue.
9. The domain name transfer: ivan.net at XtatiX (6/97-7/97)
In early July, 1997, ivan.net was successfully transferred from Digiweb to XtatiX. (fpc.li never made it, for some reason.) Once the transfer was complete, the same URLs that have always been used guided the regular and the newbie alike directly to BoyChat and its sister sites. This was the original plan, to transfer with the minimum amount of disruption, but the ways of InterNIC are mysterious (probably even to InterNIC), and the transfer took over a month to effect.
Conclusion: The BoyChat Family
BoyChat will continue to experience the cycles chronicled in this history, the feuds and the warfare alike, because we are, as Little Prince ceaselessly reminds us, a family, and families quarrel and fight. For many, if not most, of us, BoyChat is the only real family we have ever had. While some people might have gotten a little carried away with the familial imagery (hello, Llewellyn! :), this truth remains: we are the only people in the world right now who truly understand each other and truly know each other for what we are. Words and blips on a screen we may be, as -wps- would insist, but as roo and Jyme will tell us, you create your own reality. BoyChat has done exactly that.
Alexis, 6/24/97. Thanks.