Down with homophobia, up with zips: meet the new, improved gay man
Friday 17 October 1997
Shall we wrap our lips around the New, Improved Homosexual? The discussion is overdue. True, there have been sightings, rare as Bigfoot but not as attractive, since the Stonewall riots 28 years ago. But each glimpse has been shrugged off, yea, even by gay politicos - especially by gay politicos; well, their job is to demand change, not dream the individual who might come after change. Now here we are at the beginning of the end of something and instead of rejoicing, I instead hear my people clutch their beads and cry out, "What's to become of us?"
Let me explain. Every day of the last couple of weeks seemed to bring a new advance for those who think pink. So many advances that Jeremy Paxman detected a ... breakthrough. First there was Lisa Grant receiving the go- ahead from the European Court Of Justice to proceed with her discrimination case against South West Trains for not affording her girlfriend equal status with heterosexual partners. Then the European Court of Human Rights deemed the UK's unequal age of consent wrong, prompting the promise of an early parliamentary vote. Meanwhile, William Hague wrote to Tory gay group Torche, thanked them for their activism, best wishes, big kisses on the bottom. Michael Portillo, or a pod version of same, stood before Conservatives and told them that other people's sex lives did not require judgment. Michael Howard repeated the message. You waited for him to choke - well, wished - but no. Neither did Peregrine Worsthorne. Asked about immigration rules being, ahem, bent so gay men could bring totty into the country, Perry languidly waved gay marriage through and noted that times have changed, ie that nutters had better recognise the jig is up.
What else could explain the Daily Mail editorial throwing in the towel? Throwing down the gauntlet is more the Mail thing, but they had read the runes: the queers are coming. And coming. And coming.
Anyhow, as Victor Meldrew and EMF might shout, unbelievable. Not that there isn't some distance to travel. Pension, inheritance and adoption issues continue to fester and the Hate Crimes Bill doesn't mention queer bashing. Still, shouldn't the kicked around and put upon be just a bit overjoyed? But I see no parties, no club nights on the theme of embracing the glorious future. Instead I fear the consequences of identity crisis and what the burden of responsibility might do to even the most muscular back. For if the jig is up for the nutters, then the intricate minuet may also be over for all the outsiders who enjoyed playing the somewhat addictive role of the witty, fashionable, artistic and emotionally sensitive sexual outlaw; tragic heroes of their own lives who often sneered at poor breeders from a subculture and sensibility that didn't exactly encourage you to ... I'll say it, shall I? ... grow up.
That Millie Jackson has a point when she warbles about "the freedom of my chains". Remove the forces of repression from your life and who are you if not the outline - the consciousness - shaped by those titanic pressures? That's the question currently looming into view and forcing boyz to lie down in darkened rooms with whale song tapes and a stiff man: if we're getting it together, why do we feel as if we're falling apart? Pay no heed to the previously reiterated goal of full integration and assurances that "we're just the same as you"; it's a gay man's right to change his mind and Calvins on a hourly basis, and that was propaganda anyway and doesn't count.
Gay men have been caught psychically unprepared. Partially because we thought the Pride march would be longer (as, in terms of attitude, rather than law, it still could be). And because - shocked faces, everyone - we perhaps never really expected the breakthrough or wanted it. Why else haven't we thought through the aftermath of being on the inside?
For instance, what might assimilation mean for the urban scene? When ghetto walls crumble do boyz continue to be boyz, or is a bargain (unconsciously) struck with the New Millennium and, oh dear, New Labour? A bargain apparently conditional on the spring cleaning of gay sexuality, partnership rights and marriage would seem to carry the covert message of down with homophobia, up with zips. I only ask: how can a boy continue to palm off every sexual encounter as a celebration of self in the twisted face of a hostile society when society just ain't that hostile? Hmm?
This is what happens when you publicly insist you're no different from anyone else while secretly believing you're terribly special indeed. It's a contradiction that really couldn't be helped. It's such a great excuse for foul behaviour - for blaming everyone else for your bad days - and now gay men are apparently expected to be nice and as ordinary as advertised. Is this the New, Improved Homosexual the breakthrough asks for, the pseudo- heterosexual? Straights ticking off the boxes on the demand list might very well think so. They've certainly been encouraged to.
And it might well be, unless the New, Improved Homosexual isn't chewed over. The repercussions are enormous and yet upset queens are off in corners, quoting St Theresa on more tears being shed over answered prayers, never thinking to ask not what heterosexuals might do for us, but what we might do for heterosexuals and the full spectrum of their living arrangements and thought. There are ways of being/seeing we might bring to the party, if we can stop behaving like victims even in victory; who better to illuminate the suddenly hard-sell concept of caring, compassion and tolerance? May I suggest the vexed concentrate less on gains won and more on choice exercised? Before "What's to become of us?" is "What became of us?" and the infinitely postponed is overtaken by events, leaving gay men all dressed up in their civil rights and bitching that the look doesn't actually suit them?
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