Partying isn't everything - a night in would be something to celebrate
Friday 05 July 1996
My sexuality and the luck of the draw. Think about it. Or nip off and have the manicure you've been promising yourself ever since that policeman booked you for driving while in possession of cloven hooves.
Is driving while in possession of cloven hooves celebrating your sexuality? Devil if I know. But it's the pinnacle of Gay Pride 96 tomorrow - well, it's the pinnacle of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride 96 tomorrow, actually - and this sort of enquiry keeps cropping up.
Lesbians and gays and nymphs and shepherds etc, will be marching to Clapham Common, home of the mythical Mr Average who rode the omnibus, to announce their visibility (by wearing leather harnesses and huge picture hats), declare their unity (before getting back to bickering), and, yes, to celebrate their sexuality. Why? Because - pay attention, questions will be asked later - all the everyday things that ordinary folk do to celebrate their sexuality, from cutting a rug down at the local disco to plighting one's troth before family and friends, gays can't take for granted.
You, gentle heterosexual reader, think nothing of skipping down the street hand in hand with your heart's desire, or copping a quick snog on the steps of your workplace, before your colleagues' bleary eyes, and why should you? What feels perfectly normal to you doesn't require courage, or a conscious act of will. Nor should it.
Homosexuals, however, aren't that ... I nearly wrote lucky. Straights can celebrate their sexuality and no one notices, or cares, but for those who have to rely on raffles, a quick peck, an affectionate squeeze, a look of love are all radical acts, whether the individual wants them to be or not. The world makes them so. You may be the most timid Tory in captivity but suddenly you seem defiant, dangerous, and ... what's the word always thrown once you want to do as everyone else does? As if I could forget: aggressive. Your life becomes politicised, and it's not a decision you make, or a process you control. Health insurance, mortgages, making sure your partner receives your pension when you die - you have to fight for your rights.
Point: to be incidentally politicised isn't the same as being political. There are organised structures for gays if they want them: Stonewall, OutRage!, Queer Nation, et al, plus the main political parties and their dangled promises (and why didn't that nice Mr Blair and his lovely bouffant vote in the gays in the military debate?). Like them or not, functional entities with agendas, campaigns, aims. Being politicised, though, is a state of mind, traditionally the starting point of politics, not instead of politics. It's not meant to be a cop-out.
Go to gay pub, get pissed, fall over: celebrating your sexuality. Go to gay club, do E, fall over: celebrating your sexuality. Name your club Vaseline, whinge when Unilever forces you to drop the title: celebrating your sexuality. Wearing Lycra that takes your blood pressure in colours that clash: celebrating your sexuality. That nasty rash: celebrating your sexuality. Buy the latest Jimmy Somerville single: see a qualified therapist.
Whatever the Beastie Boys insist, fighting for the right to party isn't the be all and end all, though there are gay men who think exactly that (the Lycra is stopping the flow of blood to their brains). They'll be the ones on the march tomorrow - or probably not on the march tomorrow, knowing that this is the one day of the year Harvey Nicks will be empty - who believe that putting popper bottles under their noses at the 8,000 strong Heaven on Earth party come midnight is where the real ideological action is. Party party party politics.
Which is both convenient and a higher state of false consciousness. Hostile society did this and that and the other to me for years and now I'm having fun! Boogieing well is the best revenge! Yeah - and then? What's for afters?
Inevitably there comes a time when it isn't a question of the next remix, the next high, the next man, but the next dawn, the next day, the next decision. When, to paraphrase the Foreign Legion, you have the stark choice whether to March or Dye. Not that marching solves anything in itself, but at least it's a first step as opposed to the latest step. For the sad truth is that even the gayest of us, if not the happiest of us, must one day call a halt to the celebrations or he may find himself doomed to dance forever, having forgotten the nominal object of the exercise was to be finally able to go home, hang up those red shoes, and have a nice cup of tea and an early night just like anybody else.
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