Do we get what we pay for - or just what we deserve?

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Let's hear it in stereotype: fags are great at spending money, but not at raising it, saving it, using it, or making it grow. Funny, frivolous creatures that we are, we are expected to be, as a feature in The Independent put it only this Tuesday, "creative, exuberant and glamorous". We are not to bother our silly heads about the harsh, hierarchical world of commerce, which, as any woman who has gashed her scalp on the glass ceiling will tell you, remains, a last bastion of "unreconstructed masculinity". A place where "real men" can force you to play by their rules, so that even a multi-billionaire like the late Malcolm Forbes has to spend his life in hiding. The poor little rich boy feared that his colleagues would discover his double-life and believe his interests lay more in makeover than takeover, in backrooms rather than boardrooms.

Forbes knew if he came out of the filing cabinet his stock would plummet, the bull market would question just why he wanted the keys to the executive washroom. For though seldom explicitly stated, the idea has long been abroad that gay men lack what butch types in red braces thrill to call the "killer instinct". That we define ourselves not in the work, work, work ethic but in towing the party, party, party line. That the wealth of our emotional lives is more important to us than piffling profit margins. That the only power we understand is purchasing power and we will never mobilise those potentially political pink pounds for anything else. That we are the playthings, not the playboys, of capitalism, and, bless us, so much more at home in the traditional comfort zone of the arts; that, actually, the only business we're equipped for is showbusiness. Cameron MacIntosh might be rich honey, but his money flows from musicals. Colin Bell might be a big noise, but it's from producing CDs bands. And they probably have fabulous accountants, darling. Fabulous straight accountants. The sort who possibly toil for "gay-friendly" Virgin Direct and can recite a meaningful rap about investment, guppies and DINKs (Dual Income, No Kids) but nevertheless charge way over the odds for life assurance once sexual preference is declared. Are you informed consumer or greedily consumed? Who cares? Not you, obviously. You're gay and not cold enough to appreciate cash on demand.

Of course, last week's voluntary liquidation of the Pride Trust, the second such occurrence in six years, makes such notions easier to buy and sell. Never mind the evidence to the contrary - Lesbian and Gay Switchboard, Stonewall, the Aids organisations that successfully operate on shoestring and/or slashed budgets - what will be remembered here is how yet another merry band of gay men and lesbians let Gay Pride run up debts to the tune of some pounds l80,000 (estimates vary) despite supposedly attracting more than a quarter of a million people to "the largest free musical festival in the world".

The old, old story, it is ever true: queens squabble amongst themselves, dykes try to impose direction, ideological war is waged and what should be a sound proposition is suddenly a psychological playpen with no one keeping a gimlet eye on the "record sponsorship". Or the insurance policies. Or setting cash aside for VAT, breakages and losses including, in this case, three generators, stolen furniture and pounds 7,000 worth of wheelchairs that walked.

Result: annual time-is-money consuming rows around "political correctness", annual failure, the usual wild rumours of fairy-soft hands in the till and Ivan Massow, the subculture's single financial guru (well, who needs more than one?) dragged away from his ledgers to dismiss the unfortunately resurrected cliche of gay-run operations simply not being able to count, unless it's in inches.

And Massow would be correct to flip the cliche, the collapse of the Pride Trust is not because of genetic disposition. He could furthermore point out that most minority organisations staffed by volunteers routinely trip into similar traps; such failures are not exclusive to "the community", though they oft appear more fiercely concentrated.

What Massow probably wouldn't do - he wouldn't be asked - is to place Pride's fall in the general context of shoddy gay-run businesses "the community" is ever heir to. Pride is a paradigm. There isn't a gay man or lesbian of average intelligence who doesn't complain about the third- rate but invariably expensive services provided by the bulk of gay businesses, be they taxis, holiday firms, decorators, clubs, fetish shops, restaurants, a Mardi Gras or the gay press (the latter currently pulling a pot-and- kettle number that has to be seen to be disbelieved). Yet if these (very) limited companies fail then it's probable that "the community" will be blamed for not supporting such noble endeavours. Some members of the Pride Trust are already privately making such claims and certainly "the community" was denounced when the London Lesbian and Gay Centre predictably went under - just ignore allegations of missing dosh and financial mismanagement - and Phase magazine turned out to be just that after three appalling issues. It wasn't their fault. It was yours. You were - are - meant to take any crap, accept any old excuse, because it was gay.

Really: don't you realise that as a gay man with a legendary highly disposable income that it's your duty to be everyone's rip-off, including other gay men's?

The notion that homosexuals can't execute the business of business is patently false. It's just delivery, quality control, follow up, value that there's a problem with. But then, if part of you thinks that, you don't deserve any better....

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