What started as an online community now holds regular events round the country where
gay professionals can meet as Jake director Alex Sass explains "We are here because
we have something in common so lets exploit this to each other's benefit."
Genius was a Dutch gay network which started in 1996 and now a former board member
Alfred Verhoeven has started an international equivalent called
6PC which already has 800
members. Again the aim is simple - setting up an international network of gay professionals
for the exchange of information, to get assistance on private or business matters, answers to
questions, support, friendship. But Alfred says it's not all about business
"The Network is dubbed professional but equally serves personal and social purposes.
The network is also virtual, so there are no scheduled meetings. However, members are free
to contact other members in their region or when travelling."
When it comes to gay business, there's no doubt that sex does come into it, but probably no more
so than in the straight world. "Apart from the fact that we dress and talk better," the GBA's
Ross Jackson elaborates wryly, "gay networking is similar to the Mafia in that it sometimes
really is the size of your 'weapon' that
determines how far you get. It's as old as the hills, though maybe not as old as some
of the people you'll meet if you try to sleep your way up."
"But," Jackson cautions, exhaling a cloud of smoke into my face, "I'd have to say from
experience that I wouldn't recommend trying to sleep your way to the top - they always
recognise the cash registers in your eyes despite what you say about liking their
personality. Don't imagine being gay is enough - business always comes first."
"The real 'power brokers' in the gay world," he opines, "fall into four main categories -
the HIV lobby from Terrence Higgins Trust to the National Aids Trust; the political
lobby from Stonewall to Tatchell; the publishers and media owners from Chronos to
Prowler-Millivres; and the super-clubs from Heaven to G-A-Y. Maybe Mardi Gras will
once again regain a position of power in the near future too, though it took a bit of a
wounding with last year's debacle."
And he adds as the coffee pours freely: "Specific gay professional associations exist to
defend their members against discrimination, provide social opportunities and are
doubtless, occasionally, where deals are done and promotions won. The GBA acts as an
umbrella organisation for all of them, in the same way as the CBI or TUC bring together
their own specialist interest organisations."
"We're certainly far from being conservative & reactionary, or some kind of new 'gay right',"
Jackson defends. "But if people think we're all just a load of guppies getting it together,
let them. I think 'gays looking after their own' in a hostile world is a perfectly legitimate concept.
...and there's no law against it."