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Those Who Practice Bestiality Say They're Part of the Next Sexual Rights Movement

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"It's true in a warped sort of way," Beck admits. "But that's a good thing, not a bad thing."

The first zoophile rights group, called Equality for All, has roots in Europe and formed in the '90s. It was the subject of a 2006 documentary film called Coming Soon, but in recent years, it has gone underground, apparently based on EFA founders' fears they would be arrested. Today the group exists primarily as a website, equalityforall.net. Its webmaster spoke with me on the condition of anonymity.

The EFA webmaster, who wouldn't give his name, says he lives in the Czech Republic and he's in his 20s. In its current condition, with members wary of prosecution, the group can perform little political activism aside from sending email blasts to inform its international membership about legislation that lumps together zoophiles with sadistic forms of bestiality. EFA sent out a notice about Rich's proposed legislation in Florida, for instance. But as that bill's fate was being discussed, the group's online petition had only about 30 signatures.

For those same reasons, there isn't an EFA "platform" other than a requirement that members vow not to cause their animals pain. Asked about the group's reception in the gay community, the EFA webmaster says opinions are split. On the subject of zoophile rights alone, he says, "Some gays resent it because they feel it contributes to the insane 'slippery slope' argument and may interfere with their own efforts." But he notes that those who saw the documentary "see us all in the same boat" and acknowledge a slippery slope that goes in the other direction: "If you allow zoos to be persecuted, who next? Gays?"

Before zoophiles can gain momentum, however, they'll need to close ranks among their own kind. Ron, for instance, says zoos will never gain social acceptance. By asking for it, they're tempting an even more powerful backlash. James isn't quite that pessimistic, but he resents young zoos who clamor for rights. They lack the patience and temperament, he says, to effect social progress.

Beck believes these are expressions of fear that are natural in the early moments of revolution. "That's the story throughout history," he says. "People don't want to stand up for anything, because they don't want to get hurt." He draws some of his own strength from the recent movie Milk, in which Sean Penn plays the nation's first openly gay elected official, San Francisco City Supervisor Harvey Milk. "If we all stand up at once, we'll share the load. What's the point of living if we have to hide who we are?"

Beck will start college in the fall and hopes to become a history teacher. I asked him whether he was sure he was comfortable with my using his real name in this article. "I have the privilege of being one of the only persons to stand up," he says. "That gives me pride."

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Thomas Francis