You have a choice between toeing the party line and toeing the party, party, party line

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Suddenly this summer: I'm in the local gay pub, I'm roasting, gulping down a pint of Diet Coke - and a man with the sort of teeth usually seen taking Beecher's Brook taps me on the shoulder and snarls, "Are you John Lyttle?"

Wow. A legend in my own lunchtime: "No."

He says, "You're John Lyttle". I say, "What I am is off duty." He gasps gin fumes all over my face. "About your bloody column ..."

About your bloody breath ... "Couldn't you write me a letter? When you find your crayons?"

"You don't stop picking on gay men. That piece about babies. We don't want children. Our lives are complete already."

I pray to Bette Davis. She comes through: "Your life isn't complete. It's finished. Besides, that isn't what I wrote."

Forget it. He's going to give me a piece of his mind, though it's obvious there isn't enough for both of us. "The one about being at the disco and hating it. Bullshit." He burps for emphasis. "Gay clubs aren't like that. People always enjoy themselves."

"Always? Like right now?"

"And last week. Gay men addicted to the gym, clothes, skin care products ..."

I point out that he has the standard set of homosexual male pecs (issued at birth), is wearing Calvin Klein (also issued at birth) and is positively radiant with fake tan (ah, Bisto!).

He explodes: "You hate yourself."

"Let me guess ... self-loathing, internalised homophobia ... getting warm?"

He moves in for the shrill. "Why," he asks, "don't you do something for the gay community?"

Multiple-choice answer time. First, I cannot be representative of all things faggot and, moreover, don't want to be. Second, what about the gay men - and lesbians and straights - who write to me, pleased to see their lives reflected, warts and all? Aren't they part of the community? Third, what gay community? It's like the unicorn. Everyone's heard of it, but no one's actually clapped contact lenses on it, certainly not on Gay Pride, when the pressure groups, societies and associations who have been at each other throats and manifestos the rest of the year suddenly decide to French kiss and make up (often literally) for the cameras; the straight world is watching, see? If that sort of spirit were maintained for more than a gay day, maybe the idea of a "community" wouldn't be so self-deceiving. But it isn't, so what we actually have is a spectrum of vested ideological interests - radical Outrage who hate posh Stonewall who hate not being invited to dine at Westminster with Edwina Currie - and the commercial gay scene; a spectrum of vested financial interests fuelled by the subculture's single great indisputable truth: the other man's ass is always greener.

Which is to say, you have a choice between toeing any number of party lines or toeing the party, party, party line, where getting pissed, ingesting industrial-strength drugs and dancing all night with all your might is deemed a political act. No, what that is is fun. No one's going to come out against fun, but there's a case to be made against overvaluing it - a political act, indeed - and getting stuck in it, so you're in danger of having a lifestyle, not a life. (Did you hear the one about how rates of alcoholism and recreational drug abuse among gay men are twice that among heterosexuals? No? You were probably out of your gourd at the time.)

Only I'm not supposed to think that, let alone write it, because heterosexuals might be reading and suggesting that We Are (Dysfunctional) Family is letting the non-existent side down. If it's gay, it's good - no one in a queer club ever had a bad night - and therefore beyond criticism. Glad to be Gay ... Or Else: that's the mood(y) of the moment. Hey, breeders; over here. Want to know why so many queens are undergoing a mass hissy fit? Easy. Over-reaction. Identity, territory and gains so hard won from a hostile world must not be questioned, ever, and after the chaos of Aids the temptation is to cleave further to creeds and screeds and 75 upbeats per minute. It's less painful not to think. Only not thinking, just believing, inevitably becomes a tyranny.

So you're obliged to be this ... clockwork thing that sings the Happy Happy Joy song. If you can't carry the tune, if you prefer Miss Bassey ("This is my life/and I don't give a damn") prepare to be accused of - oh, if I had a penny - being a homophobic homosexual, especially by the pink press, the new PC Thought Police. And for what? For pointing out the obvious - that gay men have crap days, occasionally feel damaged and have dreams that die. Or, at least, this gay man does.

My tormentor thinks it's enough to be gay. He doesn't have the energy to be human, too. It's the times. He's shouting: "Your problem is you're insecure."

I sigh: "I'm not the one who's screaming. Anyhow, if I am, so what? Don't you ever have doubts?"

He'd look me straight in the eye if he weren't swaying. "Doubts?" he slurs. "I don't have doubts." He turns away, head held high: "I got over that."

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