The death certificate will say suicide. The inquest will say he took his own life while being of unsound mind, or some other phrase soothing in its flat official purity. What won't be reported is what drove Glenn to it.
There's no pivotal event, no ready explanation, nothing neat. No currently crashing affair. No financial worries. No looming, debilitating disease, though it could have been on the cards one day, as Glenn had lately taken to anonymous unsafe sex. Or so I'm told. It might be gossip, though it smells of fact. It fits.
I know what killed Glenn. I'd prefer to pretend that I don't, but I do. What killed Glenn was: Guilt. Shame. Disgust. Damage. Massive, floating damage that could not be undone, inflicted as it was in a time when Glenn had neither the consciousness to recognise what was being done, nor the defences to stop it, nor the weapons to attack the inchoate cause of his misery. Thinking about it, it's a miracle he didn't succumb earlier, really, when he turned teenage and must have suspected that this new, fine, tense pressure would be an aching constant, sometimes the weight of the world, sometimes barely perceptible, but always, every day, there. Why didn't he opt out then? So many do. I've looked it up: 30 per cent of adolescent suicides are thought to be caused by ... the fear of being found out. Of being bullied. Of being alone and isolated. Of being different. The conditions, and conditioning, all suicides need, and in which some are not only given a gracious head start, but are shoved towards. Watch them all fall down. Colonel Redl in John Osborne's A Patriot for Me; the pretty boy played by Peter McEnery in Victim; some clipped, frightfully British film about "hamasexuality" Glenn once recalled and quoted from, complete with plummy accent, while a bunch of us sat and howled: "I thought chaps like that shot themselves." Hysterical laughter. Happy homosexuals.
Glenn wasn't happy. He tried. Only the very things that were supposed to make him glad to be gay, make him proud, pained him instead. Take cruising. He'd agree with the author Edmund White's Farewell Symphony, a book he'll now never read. Cruising wasn't cruelly suppressed desire bluntly unleashed, it was "narcissistic self-hatred". He'd certainly nod at Sam, the gay man giving depressed voice in an Independent feature printed three days after his death: "I had my `scene crisis' when I was 26. I remember sitting in a bar and realising that it wasn't just that I didn't fancy anyone there but I was tired of one-night stands ... I didn't finish my drink but went home instead. I didn't want to do anything."
I didn't want to do anything. That would have curiously comforted Glenn, I think, as the playwright Jonathan Harvey's Rupert Street Lonely Hearts Club Band did. Glenn understood why the gay lead, Marti, took the door marked exit, and was furious with reviews that callously ignored his despair, particularly Nicholas De Jongh's sniffy demand that told the character (and the playwright) he was telling tales out of school, letting the lads down, to get with the programme. A political, as opposed to a dramatic, point. As Glenn said, "Angst resists the ideological." Glenn thought liberation meant taking control of your life, even if it meant your death.
So it wasn't that he wasn't aware. It was simply that, more and more, Glenn couldn't do anything about "It". He was becoming paralysed. And I drew back. We all did. Bad vibes. Bullied one way, bullied the other. Shot by both sides. Get with the programme.
Such hurt. Glenn was radiant with it and yet couldn't talk about it: the lies he was ordered to tell himself, the lies he thought everyone he knew collaborated in. How the love that dare not speak its name had yielded to the loathing that dare not speak its name. Hold on, stop. That's a lie too. Glenn did talk, sometimes incessantly. What I mean is we didn't listen, though we did, for a while. Until it became a bore, a drag, a lost cause; meaning a breach of etiquette and an unpleasant reminder of all the shit we still had heaving in our own heads, and daintily disavowed, sternly informing ourselves that we had dismissed such destructive feelings. All gone. That was what coming out was for. Magical banishment of the negative, every problem solved. So shut it.
Glenn, Glenn. We said, Express yourself and then forced him to bottle up, to turn his murderous impulse away from the world - a vast target - and into himself. Another required condition for suicide, perhaps the most vital.
Now Glenn, I get your point. Another lie. I always did. I just refused to see it. Maybe it's my mood but today your suspicions are my suspicions. Here's a piece by the editor of Boyz on how he had unsafe sex, and not being able to explain exactly why, but, wow, there you go. Here's the news that the new HIV infection rate amongst gay men has hit a peak, up 11 per cent from 1995 to 1,634. This after, what, 15, 16 years of education? Experiences presented, figures stated but left unexplored. BecauseReuse content