John Lyttle column

A crash course in the intricate art of Gaydar
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Indy Lifestyle Online
In the immortal, if lisped, words of Liberace: Hello Everybody. It's truly humbling to see so many faces - some wildly attractive, a few only a mother could love - gathered here for the first of these irregular - highly irregular, as a matter of fact - masterclasses in all things giddy and (dare I speak its name?) gay. Really, who'd have thought that one felt tip and a single toilet wall could produce such a turn-out?

Certainly not my agent, a man lacking not merely in personal vision, but in personal hygiene, and who - allow me to share this - can go whistle for his 10 per cent... Though as any (public) school child will tell you, homosexuals cannot whistle anyway, a physiological affliction we shall return to later under the heading "Are You Musical?"

But I digress. (It's the drugs.) Our studies will be ranging far and wide, with everything from tips on coming out - as homosexual, as a cross- dresser, and the Big One, as Welsh - to how to spot the telltale signs of mousse abuse. (Oh, yes. You will be required to sign a petition begging the Government to put styling gel, hair wax and thickening spray on the controlled substances list.) We will also master handkerchief code - green announces you are for rent, olive means you crave military discipline, white with red spots means you have a nose bleed - and conquer the fine, and occasionally coarse, art of cruising.

I must remember that I am not preaching to the (professionally) perverted, but to absolute beginners to the scene. Indeed, many in this tastefully understated room with charming rococo accents and portrait of Meg Richardson - isn't it creepy how her eyes seem to follow you around? (it's the drugs) - may not even be au fait with such terms as "scene", "mince", "coming out" and "cruise". So let us briefly consider what I like to think of as the Queen's English, the only language on earth in which pork is a verb.

No "nellying about" at the back, please. You may already know more faggot argot than you imagine. It has a habit of sneaking into usage, invariably unacknowledged. "Drama queen", for instance, is a choice, easily grasped phrase which has broken out of that exclusive neighbourhood known as the ghetto and been adopted by the welfare state commonly referred to as self- confessed heterosexuality. "Rough trade", too, is gaining acceptance - by which I mean the term rather than the sorry practice of engaging in carnal relations with a member of the lower social orders. I think we can happily leave that sort of thing to Princess Anne and Tim Laurence, don't you?

Likewise, "a friend of Dorothy" has managed to pop itself into almost every mouth, though homo and het alike continue to labour under the delusion that the aforementioned Dorothy dates from The Wizard of Oz, when the four little words were actually used to gain admission to a happening gay nightclub in Harlem during the Twenties: "Let me in. I'm a friend of Dorothy." Ah, the coded catchphrases of the despised, minted solely that conversation could be conducted in front of prying, or ignorant, and even pierced ears. And very effective they've been, too. Why, for decades that wicked Cole Porter was even able to lure the masses into singing "Baby, if I'm the bottom/You're the top" without letting them in on the dirty joke. Talk about being able to carry a tune.

Repression is the mother of invention: discuss. Certainly, since the closet door burst open, gay slang has lost a lot of its inventiveness, hence the demise of backslang "riah" for hair, etc - and the sort of bitter wit that gave the world "See Tarzan, hear Jane" (meaning a man with a gym-built body and a too-camp manner). Blatancy burdens us with, yawn, "Boyz" - no substitute for either Disco Bunny or Dancing Queen - while latency let us "drop hairpins"; sprinkle hints as to our sexual orientation, in hopes that such clues will be picked up by other brethren. This helped develop "Gaydar", which being "out" in the open ideally should have rendered obsolete. Unfortunately, increased visibility merely means that these days every "boy breeder" (straight man) is a copycat friend of Dorothy, and "Gaydar" is needed more than ever, so the ever-wary can get through an enchanted evening's "stud farming" without being punched in the "dolly old eek" by something that looks like "it's in the life", "sings in the choir", a veritable "helium ankles", but has a "Palone" (woman) waiting "back at the palace" (home).

Regardless of sexuality - I don't ask, you don't tell - developing your Gaydar is what these occasional classes aims to accomplish. So, ooh ooh, let's all chant. Inhale, exhale, open wide. After me: "Get her!", "No, she didn't!", "It's to die for!", "Go girl!", "Mary, you're too much!"

And, finally, in response to letters, calls and visits from the police, the rumours are true. Students who sleep with me do get - pardon the expression - straight As.

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