Archive for January, 2016

Sucking Sherbet Lemons by Michael Carson

SSLOur group had mixed feelings about this one. One member read it when coming out himself and found it ‘refreshing’. Another was pleased to read it again found yet someone else who had re-read it thought of revisiting the author’s other works but decided it wasn’t worth the effort. Yet another said that it one of the most unmemorable books we have ever discussed, having re-read it and found it as shallow as the last time he read it.

One said that he couldn’t connect with the story at all whilst another enjoyed its whimsicality – it’s affectionate humour and you laugh with him rather than against him.

Many pages were spent building up the story but the last section was a bit rushed. The part where he started to question his faith and reject it was speeded up – people don’t change that quickly.

The coming out genre is a bit dated and it would do better today if it were published as a memoir.

It’s hard for me to remember how I felt fifty years ago when I was the age of the boy portrayed. I imagine that I was not so naïve but suspect that I was. The author is only 5 years older than me

We are presented with the Roman Catholicism of the past, before the liberal reforms of Vatican 2. We also see superstition – avoiding walking in the cracks between paving stones.

SSL 2He isn’t James Joyce though he shares the idea that mortal sins mean you go straight to Hell if you die before going to confession, where the slate is wiped clean and yuo get a pure, white soul

The protagonist (the author as a teenager?) is an overweight Irish Catholic who dreams of heaven as a place where Mars bars grow on trees. He has an astonishing lack of sex education and is living proof that parents shouldn’t be free to remove their children from it in school, nor choose a ‘faith school’ which indoctrinates them.

We rejoice that he finally finds a friend who introduces him to questioning the received ‘wisdom’ of the church. This friend also takes him to an orgy – I was not aware that such things went on illegally in the 1960s.

We get the advertising jingles of the day – call at the Esso sign. But surely they didn’t use Tide for washing up? It was for clothes

Homosexuals are seen as men in macs as the alterative to marriage.

I hadn’t heard of Osmiroid pens before.

The author should have known that ‘cotta’ is not spelled ‘cotter’. Also that you don’t wear a ‘surplice and cotter’ – they are variants of the same garment.

SSL 3A good comment about extremism: Novvy did not seem distressed at the news. “Where is this chain, Brother Henry?”

“Around my waist,” replied Brother Henry, Brother Joachim thought, at his theatrical best.

“Why?”

“I thought it would help me.”

“How did you think it would help you?”

“To mortify my flesh. If I don’t mortify my flesh it will mortify me.”

“Well I suppose you’ve got a point there, Brother. But isn’t the chain rather tight?”

“Yes, Brother.”

“And doesn’t it hurt?”

“Yes.”

Novvy said in a rather tired voice, “Go and take it off and bring it to me please, Brother.”

Brother Henry left the room abjectly. He returned carrying a heavy piece of chain which he gave to Novvy.

“It’s still warm,” observed Novvy, gesturing Brother Henry to sit down. “Now, Brothers, there you have an example of extre­mism,” said Novvy, “and extremism is a great enemy to the Spiritual Life. I do realise that all you novices are of an impres­sionable age and get strange ideas about things. I know exactly where Brother Henry got his hairbrained idea for the chain. It was Matt Talbot, wasn’t it, Brother?”

An interesting and novel penance:  “Well for your penance say ten Hail Marys. No, on second thoughts, don’t say ten Hail Marys. You must be fed up to the back teeth with Hail Marys. Instead, say a prayer of your own for me and Miss Harper and, for good measure, you can say one for all my friends in Afghanistan. Who knows, the prayers of a young novice faraway may do more to convert them from the wretched heresy of Mohammedism than a lifetime of my waffling.”

“Is it true you didn’t convert anyone?” asked Joachim.

Father O’Callaghan frowned but his eyes twinkled almost merrily. “Yes, it’s quite true. But don’t go telling the whole place. It might get back to the relations at home. They think they came flocking in to be baptised in their thousands. Well they came flocking in all right, but only for the antibiotics and the milk-powder. The trouble with the Afghan is that he is as certain about his religion as we are about ours. It’s the very devil to shift them.”

“They sound a silly people!” exclaimed Joachim.

“Maybe. Anyway, that’s by the way. Now make an Act of Contrition and we’ll eat some of Miss Harper’s seed cake.”

Father O’Callaghan recited the words of absolution over Joachim while the boy made an Act of Contrition. As always happened, he felt a huge weight being lifted from him and a feeling of light elation taking its place.

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“You Can Tell Just by Looking” And 20 Other Myths about LGBT Life and People By Michael Bronski, Ann Pellegrini, Michael Amico

YCTJBL(We have not discussed this in the group but it was a ‘spin off’ from one of our meetings and this review is in a personal capacity.)

I suggested this book as a future discussion item for the group but I’m glad it didn’t get many votes because I don’t much like it.

Since the group turned it down, I decided to get a copy and read it myself anyway.

I understand that minority groups use myths to boost self-esteem and argue with detractors and I don’t mind those myths being busted in the cause of truth but I don’t think this book succeeds in its aim.

It doesn’t back up its claims with much evidence. Whilst the authors don’t want readers top get bogged down with footnotes, they simply cannot get away with exposing simplistic statements by assertions and simplistic counter statements.

The book is also parochially American. Things are very different I other pars of the Western world and we are fighting different battles, albeit some echoing American views.

“You Can Tell Just by Looking”. The authors admit that this might have been true in the past when gays dressed in certain ways or adopted certain mannerisms but some tests have shown that straight people have as much ‘gaydar’ as any other people.

“About 10 Percent of People Are Gay or Lesbian.” Figures are unreliable because of self-selecting. The sort of people who reported top Kinsey were more likely to be sexually adventurous than the average population. Surveys with a low percentage tend to be conducted face to face where some people are more reluctant to tell the truth to a stranger.

“All Transgender People Have Sex-Reassignment Surgery.” This surprised me but then again I know little about this sublect.

“Sexual Abuse Causes Homosexuality.” This is a handy weapon for those who want to pathologise LGBTs. However, the assertions by the author which question the notion of children being ‘innocent’ are redolent of statements by the Paedophile Information Exchange of the 1970s.

“Most homophobes are repressed homosexuals.” I thought this was based on sound psychological research about projection. There are also plenty of anecdotal cases where hate preachers are caught in gay bars or with rent boys. The authors simply say that the myth is absurd without really saying why.

“Transgender People Are Mentally Ill.” Well, maybe society’s prejudice makes some so. He authors suggest that if society was more tolerant, there would be no need to have the operation but I once thought that and have been forced to rethink.

“Homosexuals Are Born That Way.” The nature/nurture debate will rumble on for a long time but it is more complicated. If being gay is ‘a lifestyle choice’ it isn’t a once and for all decision but the result of thousands of decisions over many years.

“LGBT Parents Are Bad for Children.” There have been plenty of surveys that show this to be false. The authors could have quoted more from them.

“Same-Sex Marriage Harms Traditional Marriage.” There is plenty of research going on that disproves this but the authors rely on assertion again.

“All religions condemn homosexuality.” It isn’t enough to quote a few liberals. In this Anglican diocese there are only three gay-friendly churches listed compared with hundreds of others not so listed.

“Gay Rights Infringe on Religious Liberty.” Thus some Christians rant without being aware that a secular constitution like America’s allows religious liberty among all the various other conflicting liberties. Since it is different in the UK, different arguments would need to be marshalled.

“People of colour are more homophobic that white people.” Only last week I read a detailed survey that compared attitudes in black-led churches with those of others to things like gay marriage. Black Christians in the UK were much more likely to be anti-gay, to say nothing of Ugandans and Nigerians.

“Lesbians Do Not Have Real Sex.” Echoes the obsession with penetrative sex as being the only sort.

“All bisexual men are actually gay. All bisexual women are actually straight.” Bis are the least understood but if sexuality is fluid then everyone is (potentially) bi.

” Transgender People Are Gay.” – apparently they aren’t but need the support of gay people in fighting for a society that embraces differences.

“There’s No Such Thing as a Gay or Trans Child.” Now that trans people are more visible, more children are likely to identify with them. Before, they would have been seen as ‘not normal’ but would not have had the vocabulary to understand it… It isn’t causal.

“Positive Visibility in the Media Increases Tolerance and Acceptance of LGBT People.”” In the 197os, when many cities were hosting their first gay pride parades, there was considerable opposition expressed by many members of the gay and lesbian community to the presence of drag queens in their flamboyant outfits because they gave a “bad image” of the community Similar opposition was leveled against women and men in the leather community…. the truth is not about positive images. Positive images often actually conspire with mainstream culture’s desire not to change. They are a false measure of social progress. It eventually became evident that the strength of lesbian and gay pride marches came from celebrating the incredible diversity of the entire community—and worrying less about presenting a positive image of which some mythical lesbian and gay “we” could all be proud. True equality val­ues difference; it should not demand sameness.”

” Coming Out Today Is Easier Than Ever Before.” “Or a young gay man may be more out at school than at home, fearing that his parents might kick him out. These aren’t idle fears. About 4o percent of homeless youths in the United States are LGBT.”

“Anti-discrimination laws in the United States protect LGBT people.” Not really because most states don’t have them.

“Hate crime laws prevent violence against lgbt people.” They get the Matthew Sheppard story right – that it wasn’t a simple hate crime but was more to do with poverty and drugs.

“Getting tested on a regular basis helps prevent the spread of HIV.” No, it lulls people into a false sense of security and they take a risk bare-backing.

Quotations:

The simplemindedness of this myth is self-evident. To the very complicated question “What causes homosexuality?” it poses a sin­gle, reductive answer: sexual abuse. A young girl who is sexually abused by a man becomes a lesbian because she has turned against men. A young boy who is abused by a man becomes homosexual because the abuse has programmed him to do so. This topsy-turvy logic aside, which predicts radically different results from an act of abuse—heterosexual abuse turns young females against men and into lesbians; homosexual abuse turns young males toward other men and makes them gay—what is unmistakably true is that sexual abuse is largely perpetrated by heterosexual men, although there is a small percentage done by women…. This is a vague but expansive argument that rests on our culture’s misguided insistence that children are ‘innocenct.’ To many adults, the belief in children’s innocence means above all that children (perhaps especially their own) are devoid of all sexual feelings or interests.

The new diagnosis of gender dysphoria thus represents a pragmatic and destigmatizing compromise. In an ideal world, the multitude of genders would be recognized and legitimated equal social benefits, including access to comprehensive physical and mental health care. At the same time, the distress caused by difficulty or unwillingness to uphold gender norms can be real, serious, for any individual, not just transpeople.

The example of Massachusetts—the first state to legalize same-sex marriage—is telling. Data show that in the years since same-sex couples could legally marry in Massachusetts, starting in 2004, the state’s marriage rate has remained stable, and its divorce rate has actually gone down.

What do advocates of “traditional marriage” mean when they refer to the timeless values of man/woman marriage? Is it the tra­ditional principle of couverture, which we find in English common law (the backbone of colonial and contemporary American law), in which a man and woman became one legal person upon marriage? In practice, this legal and social unity of the couple meant that the woman ceased to exist as a legal identity with her own rights. A hus­band could sell his wife’s property without her consent, and had the legal ability—even duty—to make all decisions for them both. The tradition of couverture existed well into the nineteenth century in the United States.

Do advocates of “traditional marriage” want to defend the version of marriage in which a man could legally rape his wife?

Do all LGBT people think same-sex marriage is a positive, progressive move into the future? Probably all of them agree that, if civil marriage is available to heterosexuals, it should be avail­able to same-sex couples on equal terms. However, some feminist and LGBT critics of same-sex marriage argue that the way certain public benefits are built into civil marriage impedes making social changes that could benefit everybody. Why, they ask, should access to health care be connected to marital status at all? They worry that the same-sex-marriage movement is settling for too little. It will do nothing for those many people—LGBT and straight—who do not want to marry but who do need health insurance or equal access to citizenship. Nor does civil marriage for same-sex couples reflect the diverse and imaginative ways LGBT people make kinship ties.

why do people , in these majority groups feel oppressed? If you belong to a group that has traditionally enjoyed unquestioned social dominance, any expansion of fairness for other groups—such as people of color, LGBT people and non-Christians—might feel like a loss when your -for-granted social privileges and legal position are suddenly challenged. Recall Meese’s complaint: “As a white male I have no is whatsoever, other than what is shared with everyone else.” What t he had was the privilege not to have to fight for the rights “ev­eryone else” was already supposed to be sharing.

Coming out did not use to be such a private, almost family af­fair. The phrase “to come out” was first used among gay men in the 192ps, with the implicit and sometimes explicitly stated promise that you were coming out “into the life”: the gay life. Coming out re­ferred to a young gay man’s formal presentation at a gay urban drag ball, a parody of a society girl “coming out” at a debutante ball. In the following decades, coming out could also mean your first ho­mosexual experience or participation in a community of same-sex­attracted people, people like you. Coming out was a movement into a new social space, created and inhabited by many other gay people.’

Gay liberationists of the late 196os and early 197os did not downplay their sexual “rebelliousness” as 195os gay activists did. They saw coming out as a way to change the world rather than ad­just to it. In a famous 197o manifesto, “Gay Is Good,” lesbian activ­ist Martha Shelley wrote, “The function of a homosexual is to make you [heterosexuals] uneasy.”‘ This was the beginning of coming-out guides published by both mainstream and independent gay and les­bian presses. These early books celebrated sex and sexual cultures, such as gay male bathhouses, butch/femme roles for lesbians, and gay bars. They promoted the understanding of coming out as pub­licly claiming a homosexual identity.

This history is important because it helps us see that the ques­tion of whether you come out is really the question of what kind of gay person you want to be. The desire to change the world and the willingness to make heterosexuals uncomfortable are very far from what it means to come out today.

Many same-sex-attracted teenagers have dropped using la­bels such as gay and lesbian in order to define themselves against the haunting stereotypes of the militant, in-your-face liberation­ist gay.’ These teenagers are not disavowing their attractions but distancing themselves from labels with a stigmatized history for purposes of social acceptance by their straight peers. The Advocate explored this trend in two uncritical articles: “Same-sex but Not `Gay'” (2005) and “Is Gay Over?” (2006). These stories help prop up the myth that coming out is easier today than ever before.

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Black and Gay in the UK – ed. John R. Gordon & Rikki Beadle-Blair

BAGITUK.jpg(Not discussed by the group but written in a personal capacity.)

This anthology of poems and short stories provides a snapshot of the rich variety of black gay men’s experiences in the UK today, primarily as seen by black gay men themselves, but not excluding narratives and perceptions from non-gay family members and non-black partners and allies; something in part in dialogue with the ground-breaking 80s African-American gay anthology Brother to Brother

 Some of the stories are erotic, others evocative and many show the oppression of religion.

Diriye Osman explains why he wrote Fairytales for Lost Children.

Quotations:

Even though I had known for sure that I was attracted to people of my own gender since I was twelve, it was not until I was twenty-seven that I did anything about it. The long wait was due to a number of reasons. For one, spending my adolescence in Nigeria had meant that I did not know any other boys like me and, deep down, I had felt I was damaged and that there was something deeply wrong with me. I also remember coming across a passage in the Bible late one evening about ‘a man lying with another man’ deserving to be put to death, and reaching the conclusion that the sort of carnal desires I had were an ‘abomination’ and that doing anything about them meant an eternity in Hell….. I had decided when I left Nigeria that I was going to commit suicide when I hit thirty because my life was doomed to be one of rejection and loneliness.

In my head, I draw a type of Venn diagram. In the middle of an Afro-centric halo the word ‘black’ sits proudly; two circles overlapping on either side are ‘Christian’ and ‘gay’ — they cannot touch each other. I redraw the circle — they can touch each other but not if they overlap with ‘black’. White people get to call themselves Christian and gay — but real Christians, black Christians, Christians who have grown up with Pentecostal fire, with tambourine wrists, with rolling down the aisle prophecies and tarrying nights — they would never dare to call themselves by this abomination of a word and live to tell the tale.

Like a broken clock, I look all right if you catch me at the right time

Most of the time I feel helpless and writing feels pointless

But sometimes I’ll write something I think might be worth

sharing

And I’ll share it

So I wrote this and I’m sharing it So you can have it, if you want it And if you don’t, that’s alright too

Either way, this poem is for you.

I remember the first time I heard the expression ‘batty man.’ My mother was gossiping about one of the church brothers. I always felt nakedly visible at the mere mention of the ‘perver­sion’, as if another’s invocation of the word made me shimmer with hidden sin. I remember a group of preachers performing the laying on of hands at a remote church retreat in the white sandy region of Demerara, Guyana. I approached and asked for relief from my depression. I remember the preacher putting his hand on me and praying for ‘this demon of homosexuality’ to be exorcised; I remember accepting the prayer, but wondering why he thought my depression was related to homosexuality, an explanation I had not offered for it.

There were a few incidents like that. There was Sister Phyllis at my Pentecostal church in Georgetown, Guyana: a sweet, well-meaning woman. I had confided my sexuality to her and she had taken me on ferries to exotic-sounding places to be prayed over by powerful men of god who expected me to vomit my demons up — literally. I remember her being horrified when I announced that I was returning to England. Her stance: `There is plenty of gay there!’ Instinctively, I had kept my intended departure from Guyana secret until the very last minute. She made it plain that she would have done everything in her power to keep me there. Remarkably, sisters in the congregation who had never looked at me twice flirted coarsely with me that Sunday morning. Back then in the late nineteen-eighties people were getting out of Guyana by any means possible, if at all possible.

I had to get out of Guyana. I was there for nine years and every day — yes, every single day — I was called ‘anti-man’ by strangers, even before I felt the questionable desires that would mark me out as such. It was always expressed so gleefully; I became a nine-year joke. It wasn’t only my youthful effeminacy that was mercilessly lampooned on the streets of Wismar and Georgetown, but also the size of my lips (Lipticus, Liptibatus, Blubber Mouth), and the size of my feet. Every day I steeled my nerve to leave the house. It was most painful when I was walking with my mother or my sister, mortifying for them and embarrassing for me. It instilled a lasting fear that in the Caribbean they can smell the gay on me, and it reeks as high as rotten tilapia. The members of the concrete churches I at­tended in the capital tended to be kinder, yet they always bore my salvation or exorcism in mind.

I have subsequently pondered whether it was those slings and arrows — from schoolchildren, men on corners and lawless women, which upset my sister and distressed my mother — that `turned me’. I no longer think that. Frankly, I do not know why I am ‘anti-man’ as they loved to spout, and, just as frankly, I am not possessed of an aching need to have the proclivity ex­plained, even though the explanations are frequently entertaining. I have an explanation of my own: that gay men are a naturally selected support-structure for the breeding species… Upon my return to England I had given Christianity seven years, from thirteen to twenty — the perfect number apparently — to cure me of this hideous queer malady. But then one afternoon in a Streatham Hill bedsit I realised that I had made persistent use of my direct line to the good lord above, through fasting, vows and prayer, and he had persistently declined to change me. Obviously he wasn’t going to, and the intensity of my feelings couldn’t accept this bizarre notion that homosexu­ality meant that god had ‘called me’ to be celibate. I had absolutely no patience with such a god; I just couldn’t take him seriously. Clearly I was bound for hell, but it became my express intention to have a bloody good time on earth until my inevitable encounter with the devil and his angels.

I left southwest London for northwest, to become gay. I didn’t do a Lot’s Wife and look back. In the event I flourished: I dressed more adventurously, more androgynously; I gravitated toward the militantly irreligious; I went to gay bars and clubs; songs like ‘Back to Life’ by Soul II Soul and ‘Musical Freedom’ by Adeva seemed indicative of a new life opening its arms to me. I made gay friends and lovers. It was amazing. It took a few years for my fear of the Lake of Fire to subside, but it did. I was meeting good people, and once again my impatience with the draconian Pentecostal Jehovah deepened because I couldn’t believe that these decent, likeable human beings were going to burn eternally for taking pleasure and finding love in each other…. Ultimately, I can only be thankful: thankful that I am a son of life’s longing for itself — as Kahlil Gibran would put it; thankful that my South American mother and my African father met in the United Kingdom; thankful that my father’s motile sperm fertilised my mother’s inviting egg; thankful to my mother for naming me; thankful that I have had nearly five decades of life on earth; thankful that I have a voice that works and a brain that is inquisitive; thankful that I have been the youngest in my class; thankful that I have been the oldest in my class; thankful that I was the only black boy in a Norfolk school; thankful that I was the only English boy in a Guyanese school; thankful that I was a poor boy from England in a school of wealthy Guyanese children; thankful for the love that enabled me to survive all the insults; thankful for the oasis from verbal abuse that the Pentecostal church provided; thankful for the sensitivity that allowed me to care about myself when others attempted unwittingly to destroy me.

I am thankful to the airline that would not pay me but would get me out of Guyana; thankful for the aunt in Croydon who took me in under duress and then unceremoniously threw me out; thankful for the Surrey recruitment agency that sent me to the care-homes of Carshalton where I discovered what I didn’t want to be; thankful to the Streatham church that arranged a nice bedsit for me in Montrell Road after the horror of the bedsit in Burlington Road, Thornton Heath; thankful for the insurance company that had the same effect; thankful for the Time Out magazine column that showed me where the gay men were; thankful for the militant, socialist, atheist, gay father figure who nurtured me in the north of London and enabled me to become fabulous; thankful to the public schoolboy alongside whom I worked at London Underground who told me about university grants; and thankful to the other public schoolboy whose tale of drunken flunking of an art history degree switched a light-bulb on in my head.

The gratitude lists are endless. Suffice to say, like Kim Bas­inger, I am thankful to everyone I have ever met. And of course I am thankful to my mother for giving me the names of the singing Hebrew king and the enchanting songbird who became the fundamental icons of my blessed existence.

As I was experiencing unpleasant moments in my Quranic School, top of which were the constant beatings by the imam for not reciting the Quran very well, my aunt was at the same time taking us to church every Sunday. Sunday School offered everything that Quranic School took away from me. I found peace and love, my Sunday School teachers were welcoming, and every time I answered a question correctly I got a gift.

While dreading Quranic School in the evening so much that, though I would fake being ill, I would actually really get sick, I looked forward to Sundays and Sunday School classes, and it didn’t take long before my bible stories replaced Mill & Boon in my life. I was studying the bible with such passion because I know that the more I studied, the more chances there were of me winning gifts. Sunday School also offered me something special about Sunday that my every-evening Quranic school could not. As I got increasingly excited about going to Sunday School, and more and more hated the idea of going to Quranic School, this also took its toll on my religious study in school.

Due to my father’s religious preference, I had to attend Is­lamic Religious Studies. So that meant: more beating. I am not trying to say that Islam is an aggressive religion, but the process of impacting the religion on young people should be reconsidered. It is brutal, abusive and does not encourage a friendly atmosphere of learning. All through the time I spent going to Quranic School I felt seriously violated and abused, and my Islamic class in primary school became a continuation of this process of abuse and torture.

Any religion that is designed in such a way that it tortures children and abuses them should be placed under serious scrutiny. Islam became the extension of the pains and agony I was going through at home. It was very painful that as I was trying to look for a way to escape the torrent of hate I was facing at home as a kid, Islam was adding to this pain.

After enduring years of abuse in my Quranic School and from my Islamic religious class, I decided to stop going. I became the first person in my family to disobey my father. Not that it mattered, or that I would face any serious punishment: I could get away with murder as long as it was my father. It was easier than trying to get away with anything with my mother. So, I stopped attending Quranic School and kept on with Sunday school. I was just ten years old.

My leaving Islam was one of the bitterest experiences my father had to endure in his life, as he had hoped I would be a well-known Islamic scholar. He told me that when I was a little boy he had a sense of what I would become, and he wanted that to be rooted in Islam. The problem I had was that he saw nothing wrong in the constant abuse I had to endure in learning Islam. He believed it was part of the process. Today, my father still thinks that.

It wasn’t only my father who was mad: stopping Quranic School also meant stopping my Islamic Religious class and, god help me, that did not go down well either. I want you to note that this was happening to me at age ten — the level of will I had at that time was so strong that many times when I look back I get really scared of that ten-year-old boy — and this singular act brought upon me one of the most dreadful abuses I have ever experienced.

When my Islamic teacher heard about my decision to leave his class he was not going to stand for any of that. I will remind you again; at this time I was ten. A ten-year-old in Nigeria has no voice: he should be seen, if he is lucky, but never heard. And here I was at ten, not only demanding to be seen and heard, but also making decisions.

My teacher, Mr Balogun, was furious. During morning as­sembly he asked me to come to the front. He wanted to know why I had stopped coming to his class, and if what he has been hearing about me attending Christian religious studies is true.

I answered yes. That was all he needed. He asked that I be lifted up and stretched out by four boys. Two hold each of talc hands and two hold each of my legs.

I was turned face down. He looked for what I would consider as the fattest cane in the school. There I was, at doe morning assembly, about to be tortured and dehumanised leaving one religion for the other.

The beating I endured lasted for almost five minutes. By time he was done I was bleeding through my blue khaki. I hardly walk or sit down. I hated school but I didn’t want to go home: I knew my mum wouldn’t mind what had happened to me; and the thought of seeing the happy face of my father was just dreadful.

I wanted my parents to go and complain to the school, to demand why I had been treated this way for just changing religion, but they did absolutely nothing.

This particular incident ranks as one of the worst among the many horrible experiences I have been through in life. This was the first time as a child I was seriously violated and abused with no-one standing up for me.

I got used to the pain, the rejection and the bullying, but as I grow older I realise that, though I pretended to be strong, I actually did not have the surviving skills. All I have done in my life is sweep everything under the rug whilst the reality still stares at me…. attending Foursquare Gospel Church meant I belonged to a crop of cool Christians. The church was one of the most respected emerging evangelical churches in Nigeria, and I also had the privilege of having my aunt as a pastor in the establishment. However, as I went deeper, I realised that my sexuality was gradually becom­ing a core part of my life.

At that age, I was very vulnerable. I was facing rejection at home and looking for love and acceptance. Though I found that with Seyi, I was still not happy. So I got deeper into religion.

Two weeks before my first suicide attempt I was walking home with Seyi when we were approached by student from the Scripture Union offering leaflets for an end-of-term Christmas event. He told me they would be having many exciting events, including a showing of the film Burning Hell. As a moderate evangelical attending Foursquare, my lot believed that Scrip­ture Union people had taken Christianity to the extreme — this was in the early ‘9os. I wasn’t sure, but thought I wanted to go; Seyi, however, was sure it was not a good idea. Without telling Seyi, I went. The film was gory and scary. It showed the reward for evil was eternal damnation. It was so terrifying that I wept all through the screening.

For the very first time in my life I got really scared of what would become of me if and when I die like this. I remember going up to the altar, my eyes red with tears, asking God to forgive me. I was so scared of dying and going to hell. I went to the pastor, fell to my knees and begged God to forgive me. I called on Seyi next day and told him I had given my life to Christ and that I couldn’t date him anymore.

His eyes still haunt me today.

He held my hand and asked me why. I told him I had found Christ. That homosexuality is evil, and that he too had to give his life to Christ.

I spent most my holiday period hunting him and trying to convince him to give his life to Christ. I also got on buses to preach. I was going mad. I hated the one who had shown me my true self. In my quest for the love that was denied me at home I turned away real, honest love.

I need to say that this fear of love has led me to develop a protective system where I tend to scare people who love me… As this was going on, I was at the same time having the graphic image of ‘the burning hell’ at the back of my head.

One day I came back from Seyi’s house all teary and scared because I had met someone from the SU on my way home, and he had told me there was news making the rounds that I am homosexual. He prayed with me and told me to fast and ask God for His healing hands. After that I went home, went into my room, picked up a towel and headed for the bathroom with a plastic bucket with one aim: I was going to kill myself before I allowed homosexuality to consume me. My argument was, if I die now I will at least go to heaven instead of dying as a homosexual and going to hell. I stood on the plastic bucket and, with the door closed against the sun shining outside, tied the towel to the iron hook in the ceiling of the bathroom.

I could hear the laughter of my siblings outside. I heard my mother calling for my brother. There was someone in the other bathroom. It was a few weeks before Christmas. The house was alive and fulfilled.

I tied the towel firmly, creating a noose to twist around my neck. I then tried putting my head through the noose before kicking the bucket away with my feet so I could dangle and die. However, just as I was trying to put my head through, the bucket gave way under my feet. I came crumbling down with a thump, leaving the towel hanging but without my neck in it. The sound drew the attention of the person in the other bathroom. I quickly jumped up and removed the towel.

I was accused of trying to spy on the person in the next bathroom with the help of the bucket. If any member of my family is reading this, it will be the first time they will know of my first attempt at suicide.

the bouncer had thought it best to check with me that I was ‘really gay’ because, ‘You know, we get a lot guys dealing in here, so we have to be careful’, or that the only other conversation I’d had in the club that night began with, ‘Is it true what they say?

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The Life to Come and Other Stories – E. M. Forster

TLTCAOS 2(Not discussed by the group but written in a personal capacity.)

Many people know that he didn’t want Maurice published until after his death. Fewer, including me, knew that these stories existed and were left unpublished for the same reason. They were shown to an appreciative circle of friends and fellow writers, including Christopher Isherwood, Siegfried Sassoon, Lytton Strachey, and T. E. Lawrence, who considered one story “the most powerful thing I have ever read.” Forster described ‘The Life to Come’ as “violent and wholly unpublishable” It relates one poignant sexual encounter that takes place between a South American chieftain, Vithobai, “the wildest, strongest, most stubborn of all the inland chieftains” and the young priest with whom he falls in love, Paul Pinmay, who is in all ways, Vithobai’s inferior. In a single night their passion transforms into rejection.

The fourteen stories in this book span six decades—from 1903 to 1957 or even later—and represent every phase of Forster’s career as a writer. About a third of them deal with homosexuality.

The significance of these stories in relation to Forster’s famous abandonment of the novel is discussed by Oliver Stallybrass in his introduction. “[These stories] are often brilliant, aware both of the strictly contemporary…the contrast between Greek and Christian; between ‘Goth’ and Christian; between spontaneity and duty in matters sensual and instinctive. In short, they bring up all Forster’s usual preoccupations and at the same time orchestrate the new song and play it loud and clear.”

We get a character’s denial of love reveals the constricting effects of conventional society and leads to his physical, emotional, or spiritual death. In “The Life to Come,” a Christian missionary, who becomes a native’s lover for one night, denies his feelings for his lover who later stabs him to death before killing himself. In “Dr Woolacott” a dying patient refuses the aid of his doctor and chooses instead the spirit-saving love of an unknown boy, even though his choice causes his physical death. “.

‘The Other Boat’ begins with a group of children playing on the deck of a boat travelling from India to England. Lionel is attempting to get one of his friends, Cocoanut (named for his oddly shaped head), to play battle with him. Lionel is one of the five children belonging to Mrs. March, and is aboard the ship because his father had deserted his mother for a native he had met while fighting in a war abroad. Mrs. March makes several comments about how she disapproves of Lionel’s friend, Cocoanut. She refers to him as having a touch of the “tar brush” and not being entirely of European ancestry. However, she allows them to go ahead and play together for most of the voyage. When she observes that the children are playing in direct sunlight, she sees to it that they play under the awning before they become afflicted with sunstroke. Baby, the youngest of the March children, begins crying as Mrs. March is yelling at the children, so she picks him up to carry him inside. Before she can get inside, however, a young sailor hops out of his cabin and draws a white line around her—which puts her in a state of mind where she cannot escape the circle that surrounds her. Then, Cocoanut appears, screaming that she has been caught. She becomes infuriated with he as “a silly idle useless unmanly little boy.”

Years later, Lionel has become a Captain in the British army and a war hero, after he was injured in battle. He has grown into a handsome young man, with blonde hair, blue eyes, and broad shoulders and is aboard a ship to India, where he is to meet up with Isabel, a girl who we assume he is to marry. Cocoanut is also aboard, and had made arrangements for them to share a room together. Lionel seems rather shocked, and quite uncertain about sharing a room with a “half-caste”. But because the ship is already full, and because he acknowledges that his prejudices are tribal, and not personal, he seemingly agrees.

At first, things seem normal. They unpacked as they talked about old times, joking with each other. And then suddenly things became awkward. As Lionel was sitting on his top bunk, Cocoanut grabbed his leg, and began feeling up until he had reached his groin. Lionel’s mind begins to race. He is confused and disgusted as he leaps from his bunk, running out the door. At first he goes to see the Master at Arms, but he is nowhere to be found. He then heads to the Purser’s office, demanding that he have his room switched, without giving any reason whatsoever. When the Purser explains that all of the rooms are already full, Lionel furiously marches out of the office. He goes to the front of the ship and watches as he moves farther away from England as he tries to decide what to do. While at the front of the ship he runs into Captain Arbuthnot and his wife, and they form a group known as the Big Eight. After a few drinks and jokes, Lionel begins to loosen up a bit, and complains about having to room with a “wog”. Feeling a little bit better, Lionel decides to go ahead and deal with Cocoanut being his roommate for the voyage, and tries to forget about the strange incident that had happened earlier.

Everything seemed to be going well. “Order had been re-established”. But Lionel can’t help but think back on the night when Cocoanut had made his move, and even wonders what would have happened if he had granted Cocoanut’s desires. The ship enters the Mediterranean Sea, and one night, after Lionel returns to his cabin, he is awaited by Cocoanut and a bottle of champagne. After a few drinks, Lionel gave in Cocoanut’s seduction, and as they lay in bed together, they talked about their lives. At one point, Cocoanut questions the large scar that Lionel has on his groin area. It turns out that the scar was Lionel’s “battle wound”, which is what ended up making him a war hero. After the story of the battle wound, Lionel continues talking, getting further into deeply personal stories from his younger days. Cocoanut doesn’t go into much detail about his past. We are able to gather that he is in charge of some type of business, although his specific occupation is never revealed. We also know that he has several passports from different countries, which makes the reader wonder of who Cocoanut really is.

While the two men lay entwined in their cabin, they have become close with one another, not only on a physical but on an emotional level. Lionel says “I’m fonder of you than I know how to say”. Cocoanut’s response is that Lionel should have someone to take care of him. The two men ponder being together, but Lionel realises that it would be impossible.

Suddenly, Lionel notices that bolt on the door had been unlocked the entirety of their lovemaking. Anyone could have walked in. He blames himself for being too careless, but then Cocoanut claims that it was partly his fault also, because he knew that the door was unlocked the entire time. Furious with Cocoanut for not mentioning this before, Lionel decides to go out on the deck for a smoke. Realizing the seriousness of what just transpired, Cocoanut says, “When you come back you will not be you. And I may not be I.” As he is out on the deck for a smoke, he sees Colonel Arbuthnot sleeping, next to his wife. He thinks about everything which he would lose if anyone were to find out about the scandal with Cocoanut. He was the first born, and felt responsible for maintaining integrity of the family name. Thinking of Isabel, who is waiting on him in India, he decides what happened would not follow him any further. Hearing Lionel, Colonel Arbuthnot wakes up, and apologises to Lionel for having to bunk with a ‘wog’. It had just been discovered that Cocoanut was not supposed to be on the boat at all. He had sent some “fat bribes” out to get himself aboard the ship. After his discussion with the Colonel, Lionel leaves the deck.

Returning to the cabin, Lionel sees Cocoanut in his top bunk. Getting close to Lionel, Cocoanut insists that he kiss him. When Lionel rejects him, Cocoanut decides to go in for the kiss regardless and bites Lionel’s forearm. Lionel flashes back to the war and strangles Cocoanut, then kisses his eyelids tenderly, then commits suicide by throwing himself into the ocean. His body is never found. Typically depressing internalised homophobia from Forster.

In ‘The Obelisk’, I warm to the teacher who is reluctant to ask directions – typical male autonomy thing.

Some of the stories, however, are boring and the footnotes are somewhat pedantic.

And isn’t it very English to have ‘dice of friend bread’ with soup rather than croutes?

TLTCAOSQuotations:

“You can not possibly lie on hard asphalt,” he says.
“I have found that I can”, is the poignant reply

“Can’t you grasp, Barnabas, that under God’s permission certain evils attend civilization…Five years ago there was not a single hospital in this valley.” “Nor any disease, I understand.”

Love had been born somewhere in the forest, of what quality only the future could decide. Trivial or immortal, it had been born to two human bodies as a midnight cry. Impossible to tell whence the cry had come, so dark was the forest. Or into what worlds it would echo, so vast was the forest. Love had been born for good or evil, for a long life or a short.

“Let us both be entirely reasonable, sir. God continues to order me to love you. It is my life, whatever else I seem to do. My body and the breath in it are still yours, though you wither them up with this waiting. Come into the last forest, before it is cut down, and I will be kind, and all may end well. But it is now five years since you first said Not yet.”

“It is, and now I say Never.”

“This time you say Never?”

“I do.”

“When you come back you will not be you. And I may not be I.”

Dead silence ensued, which was well enough for Ansell, to whom it merely meant that neither of us had any more to say. But to educated people silence matters; it is a token of stupidity and lack of invention. Ansell.

But that was only the beginning of her mortification. Harold had proved her wrong. He had seen that she was a shifty, shallow hypocrite. She had not dared to be alone with him since her exposure. She had never looked at him and had hardly spoken. He seemed cheerful, but what was he thinking? He would never forgive her. Albergo Empedocle.

Had she only realized that it is only hypocrites who cannot forgive hypocrisy, whereas those who search for truth are too conscious of the maze to be hard on others – than the bitter flow of her thoughts might have been stopped and the catastrophe averted. But it was not conceivable to her that he should forgive – or that she should accept forgiveness, for to her forgiveness meant a triumph of one person over another. Albergo Empedocle.

‘Why are pictures like this allowed?’ he suddenly cried. He had stopped in front of a colonial print in which the martyrdom of St Agatha was depicted with all the fervour that incompetence could command.
‘It’s only a saint,’ said Lady Peaslake, placidly raising her head.
‘How disgusting – and how ugly’
‘Yes, very. It’s Roman Catholic.’ Albergo Empedocle.

She began to speak, but waited a moment for the maid to clear away the tea. In the waning light her room seemed gentle and grey, and there hung about it an odour (I do not write ‘the odour’) of Roman Catholicism, which is assuredly among the gracious things of the world. It was the room of a woman who had found time to be good to herself as well as to others; who had brought forth fruit, spiritual and temporal; who had borne a mysterious tragedy not only with patience but actually with joy. The rock.

This conversation taught me that some of us can meet reality on this side of the grave. I do not envy them. Such adventures may profit the disembodied soul, but as long as I have flesh and blood I pray that my grossness preserve me. Our lower nature has its dreams. Mine is of a certain farm, windy but fruitful, half-way between the deserted moorland and the uninhabitable sea. Hither, at rare intervals, she should descend and he ascend, to shatter their spiritual communion by one caress. The rock.

His hand came nearer, his eyes danced round the room, which began to fill with a golden haze. He beckoned, and Clesant moved into his arms. Clesand had often been proud of his disease but never, never of his body, it had never occurred to him that he could provoke desire. This sudden revelation shattered him, he fell from his pedestal, but not alone, there was someone to cling to, broad shoulders, a sunburnt throat, lips that parted as they touched him to murmur – ‘And to hell with Woolacott’. Dr Woolacott.

It is better to have a home of one’s own than to always be a typist. Hilda did not talk quite as she should, and her husband had not scrupled to correct her. She had never forgotten – it was such a small thing, yet she could not forget it – she had never forgotten that night on their honeymoon when she had said something ungrammatical about the relative position of their limbs. The obelisk.

Before the civil war, Pottibakia was a normal member of the Comity of Nations. She erected tariff walls, broke treaties, persecuted minorities, obstructed at conferences unless she was convinced there was no danger of a satisfactory solution; then she strained every nerve in the cause of peace. What does it matter? A morality

we only caught one of them. His mother, if you please, is president of the Women’s Institute, and hasn’t had the decency to resign ! I tell you, Conway, these people aren’t the same flesh and blood as oneself. One pretends they are, but they aren’t. And what with this dis­illusionment, and what with the right of way, I’ve a good mind to clear out next year, and leave the so-called country to stew in its own juice. It’s utterly corrupt. This man made an awfully bad impression on the Bench and we didn’t feel that six months, which is the maximum we were allowed to impose, was adequate to the offence. And it was all so re­voltingly commercial — his only motive was money.’ Arthur Snatchfold

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Gone Tomorrow – Gary Indiana

GT(Not discussed by the group but written in a personal capacity.)

Loosely following the structure of a Joseph Conrad novel, Gone Tomorrow opens in 1991, as a jaded actor drinks at the Chelsea Hotel Bar and reflects back on multiple betrayals at a hedonistic film shoot in early-’80s Columbia, and then brings us to the AIDS-decimated bohemia of his present. Somberness, wit, insanity and anger mingle to create an deeply insightful yet emotional book, an argument for living even in the midst of horrifying events.

In 1984, amidst the rot and corruption of Colombia, where a serial killer is on the loose, an at once seductive and monstrous film director (“dark, sardonic, and secretive”), an international troupe of actors and technical crew has convened to make a film of vast, if vague, ambition. The secondary players in this sinister drama alone suggest the decadent atmosphere. The Colombian set is peopled with freaks, fascists, multiple amputees, sexual degenerates, and other assorted sordid types. The narrator dissects their obsessional, implosive relationships – fired by narcissism, sex, alcohol, and drugs – against an ominous backdrop of cultural dissolution, social anarchy, and political violence.

Grosvenor begins shooting his strange film fuelled more by coke and booze than a clear script. Among the cast: Alex Gavro, a “discount-house Genet” who also seems to be sleeping with his mother; Irma Irma, a “boring malcontented” cult star; Michael Simrad, a beautiful narcissist; and the narrator, a sometime actor whose face is badly scarred. “Monsters on a rampage in a foreign country.”

We see the final gasps and convulsions of hedonism in the 1980s. The author is good at describing places and their smells. There’s a graphic description of the ravages of SIDS upon the human body and the medical profession’s fear of infection and their use of quasi space suits for self-protection.

GT 2Gary Indiana (real name, Gary Hoisington; born 1950) is an American writer, filmmaker, and visual artist. He teaches philosophy and literature at the New School in New York City. He divides his time between New York and Los Angeles.

Gary Indiana’s fiction is directly contemporary. He is perhaps best known for his loose trilogy of books based on notorious criminals in the media spotlight.

The orgy scene at the end of part one is implausible. The sex scene in Dachau concentration camp is in very poor taste.

Quotations:

Alex was jealous of Michael and wanted the script rewrit­ten to make Michael’s part smaller or his own part bigger, it sounded like a typical male thing, somebody’s part had to be bigger than somebody else’s

GT 3 A dog ran through the crowd in front of the truck. Ray jammed the brakes on, tossing us both at the windshield.

“Fucking man’s-best-friend. They’ll probably be stuffing him into empanadas by dinnertime.” He braced himself and watched the animal streak past a corner supermarket, disappearing into an extensive galleria.

“It’s hard to believe Alex actually has a mother. What’s she look like?”

“Really blonde, and really old. Full of spunk, though. In every sense of the word, from what I hear

Ray’s prick became hard and Paul jerked him off without losing his place in Macaulay’s History of England or Jude the Obscure

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Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan

2BK 2

(Not discussed by the group but written in a personal capacity.)

I’ve read most of this author’s books and e enjoyed them all. Maybe this one’s the best.

Older gay men remember the sacrifices they made and the battles they fought so that the younger generation could be themselves without constantly fearing other people’s reactions. There’s a lot of this in this book.

Kiss-ins were a powerful form of non-violent protest in favour of gay rights. Police could hardly arrest people, especially in large numbers.

Levithan’s story lasts only for around 48 hours, and within the time period a lot happens; a lot of important and moving events occur. With the evolution in homosexuality acceptance, but a definite and significant amount of people still being homophobic, the balance is perfectly measured in Two Boys Kissing. The omniscient narrators navigate the sense of freedom for gays compared with the past and knowing the pain and hurt associated with homophobia extremely delicately but with conviction and truth. The four separate stories of Harry and Craig, Ryan and Avery, Peter and Neil and Cooper seem to cover the general kinds of situations that gay individuals might be in, as well as being able to be applied to straight people too. For example, Ryan and Avery have mixed ideas about what their relationship could be, and where they might be going.

David Levithan tells the based-on-true-events story of Harry and Craig, two 17-year-olds who are about to take part in a 32-hour marathon of kissing to set a new Guinness World Record—all of which is narrated by a Greek Chorus of the generation of gay men lost to AIDS.

While the two increasingly dehydrated and sleep-deprived boys are locking lips, they become a focal point in the lives of other teen boys dealing with languishing long-term relationships, coming out, navigating gender identity, and falling deeper into the digital rabbit hole of gay hookup sites—all while the kissing former couple tries to figure out their own feelings for each other.

These people who died of AIDS remind me of Isaiah’s suffering servant: We shit blood and had our skin lacerated and broken by lesions. We had fungus grow in our throats, under our fingernails. We lost the ability to see, to speak, to feed ourselves. We coughed up pieces of ourselves and felt our blood turn to magma. We lost the use of our muscles and our bodies were reduced to collections of skin-encased bones. We were rendered unrecognizable, diminished and demolished. Our lovers had to watch us die. Our friends had to watch as the nurse changed our catheters, had to try to put aside that image as they laid us in caskets, into the ground. We will never kiss our mothers again. We will never see our fathers. We will never feel air in our lungs. We will never hear the sound of our voices. We will never feel snow or sand or take part in another conversation. Everything was taken away from us, and we miss it. We miss all of it.

And these people show what the travesty of the Christian gospel has caused: Why can’t we close our eyes? We who did nothing more than dream and love and screw — why have we been banished here, why hasn’t the world solved this by now? Why must we watch as Cooper steps up to the railing? Why must we watch as a twelve-year-old puts a gun to his head and pulls the trigger? Why must we watch as a fourteen­year-old hangs himself in the garage, to be found by his grandmother two hours later? Why must we watch as a nineteen-year-old is strung up on the side of an empty highway and left to die? Why must we watch as a thirteen-year-old takes a stomach full of pills, then places a plastic bag over his head? Why must we watch as he vomits and chokes? Why must we die over and over again?

The author says, of his inspiration: On September 18, 2010, college students Matty Daley and Bobby Cancielo kissed for thirty-two hours, thirty minutes, and forty-five seconds (longer than the characters in this book) to break the Guinness World Record for longest continuous kiss. I am just one of many people who were inspired by what they did. While the characters in Two Boys Kissing are not in any way based on Matty and Bobby, the story is certainly inspired by what they did. I am grateful to Matty for telling me what it was like, and for continuing to inspire. If you’d like to find out more about Matty and Bobby’s kiss, there was a documentary, Our Lips Are Sealed, made about it. There are also numerous videos of the kiss on YouTube,

The title of this book comes from Walt Whitman’s “We Two Boys Together Clinging,” which appears in the novel in its entirety. David Hockey did a painting of the same name.

And guess what? Some parents wanted the book pulled from the library at Fauquier High School. But hooray! They lost their case.

2BKQuotations:

“your shadow uncles, your angel godfathers, your mother’s or your grandmother’s best friend from college, […]. We are characters in a Tony Kushner play, or names on a quilt that rarely gets taken out anymore. We are the ghosts of the remaining older generation”

“We had the best songs.
We taught you how to dance”.

“We were once like you, only our world wasn’t like yours.

You have no idea how close to death you came. A generation or two earlier, you might be here with us.

We resent you. You astonish us.”

“We know that some of you are still scared. We know that some of you are still silent. Just because it’s better now doesn’t mean that it’s always good.”

“Things are not magical because they’ve been conjured for us by some outside force. They are magical because we create them.”

“We wish we could show you the world as it sleeps. Then you’d never have any doubt about how similar, how trusting, how astounding and vulnerable we all are.”

“Whatever anyone threatens, whatever anyone is offended by, it doesn’t matter, because you have already survived much, much worse. In fact, you are still surviving. You survive every single, blessed day.”

“We wish we could have been there for you. We didn’t have many role models of our own–we latched on to the foolish love of Oscar Wilde and the well-versed longing of Walt Whitman because nobody else was there to show us an untortured path. We were going to be your role models. We were going to give you art and music and confidence and shelter and a much better world. Those who survived lived to do this. But we haven’t been there for you. We’ve been here. Watching as you become the role models.”

For a long time he thought he had a demon on his shoulders, weighing him down so he’d drown quicker. The demon liked boys, wanted nothing more than to kiss a boy. Craig couldn’t get rid of him, no matter how much he wished it, no matter what promises he made to God. Then he met Harry, and suddenly the demon was revealed to be a friend. He offered Craig a hand, pulled him up. Craig emerged, gasping, from the sadness — then created a dam to keep it at bay. He didn’t let Harry see it, just like he didn’t let his parents see it. It had to remain inside of him, contained. When Harry broke up with him, the dam came undone. He started drowning again, even as he pretended for Harry and their friends that he could swim. Smita kept a close eye on him, and in his own way, Harry did, too. Their friendship helped him rebuild the dam. He still had his life within his house and his life outside his house, but he was almost used to that. It was all under control. Until he saw Tariq after the assault, and felt in his heart that this was his future, that this time the demons were as bad as he feared, and they were going to win.

He hated feeling this way. He hated feeling helpless. He wondered what he could do. How could he stand up for himself? He knew vengeance wasn’t an option. He wasn’t going to track down the guys who’d beaten up Tariq. He wasn’t going to punish them. But there had to be some way to show the world that he was a human being, an equal human being.

He thought about protests. About gestures. About making the world watch. Then he thought about world records, and came up with the idea of the kiss.

If you put enough closets together, you have enough space for a room. If you put enough rooms together, you have space for a house. If you put enough houses together, you have space for a town, then a city, then a nation, then a world.

All of these men and boys with their computers, all of these men and boys with their phones. All after the druglike rush of doing something adventurous, doing something they consider to be on the edge of something else. All of these men and boys fragmenting themselves, hoping the fragments are pieced together on the other end. All of these men and boys trying out this new form of gratification. All of these men and boys still lonely when the rush is over, and the devices are off, and they are alone with themselves again.

There is a term for this.

The term is limbo.

And now Harry needs to stop thinking about sex, because his body is starting to . . . react. So he thinks about something else — about whether he should ask for a sip of water. They’re allowed to have some, but only if it’s through a straw, and the lips are still touching. Tricky, but it can be done. The problem is, if he drinks now, he runs the risk of having to pee later. And he really wants to avoid that. This is another of the rules: no diapers, no cheating in the bathroom department. If he has to go, he’s either got to whip it out and pee on the grass — or just leak a little into his pants. Neither option is really attractive, and the horny edge is totally off his mind now.

“The first sentence of the truth is always the hardest. Each of us had a first sentence, and most of us found the strength to say it out loud to someone who deserved to hear it. What we hoped, and what we found, was that the second sentence of the truth is always easier than the first, and the third sentence is even easier than that. Suddenly you are speaking the truth in paragraphs, in pages. The fear, the nervousness, is still there, but it is joined by a new confidence. All along, you’ve used the first sentence as a lock. But now you find that it’s the key.”

“…he hopes that maybe it’ll make people a little less scared of two boys kissing than they were before, and a little more welcoming to the idea that all people are, in fact, born equal, no matter who they kiss or screw, no matter what dreams they have or love they give.”

“Harry, of course, knows he is being looked at. But what he looks like is the farthest thing from his mind. When your body starts to turn against you–when the surface value of the skin is nothing compared to the fireworks of pain in your muscles and your bones–the supposed truth of beauty falls away, because there are more important concerns to attend to.

Believe us. We know this.”

“Love is so painful, how could you wish it on anybody? And love is so essential, how could you ever stand in its way?”

“We wish we could show you the world as it sleeps. Then you’d never have any doubt about how similar, how trusting, how astounding and vulnerable we all are.”

“The first sentence of the truth is always the hardest. Each of us has a first sentence, and most of us found the strength to say it out loud to someone who deserved to hear it.”

“Some of our parents were always on our side. Some of our parents chose to banish us rather than see us for who we were. And some of our parents, when they found out we were sick, stopped being dragons and became dragonslayers instead.”

“could be outside his room, surrounded by people, and it would still feel like nowhere”

What a powerful word, future. Of all the abstractions we can articulate to ourselves, of all the concepts we have that other animals do not, how extraordinary the ability to consider a time that’s never been experienced. And how tragic not to consider it. It galls us, we with such a limited future, to see someone brush it aside as meaningless, when it has an endless capacity for meaning, and an endless number of meanings that can be found within it.

“The phrase rush to judgment is a silly one. When it comes to judgment, most of us don’t have to rush. We don’t even have to leave the couch. Our judgment is so easy to reach for.”

“So many of us had to make our own families. So many of us had to pretend when we were home. So many of us had to leave. But every single of us wishes we hadn’t have to. Every single one of us wishes our family had acted like our family, that even when we found a new family, we hadn’t have to leave the other one behind. Every single one of us would have loved to be loved unconditionally by our parents.

Don’t make him leave you, we want to tell Mrs. Kim. He doesn’t want to leave you”

“Eventually Harry will leave Craig curled on the couch. He will tuck Graig in, then tiptoe back to his own room. They will be in a separate places, but they will have very similar dreams.

We miss the sensation of being tucked in, just as we miss the sensation of being that hovering angel, pulling the blanket over his shoulders, wishing him a sweet night. Those are the beds we want to remember.”

“There is the sudden. There is the eventual. And in between, there is the living. We do not start as dust. We do not end as dust. We make more than dust. That’s all we ask of you. Make more than dust.”

“On September 18, 2010, college students Matty Daley and Bobby Canciello kissed for thirty-two hours, thirty minutes, and forty-seven seconds (longer than the characters in this book) to break the Guinness World Record for longest continuous kiss. I am just one of many people who were inspired by what they did”.

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Dirty White Boy: Tales of Soho by Clayton Littlewood

DYB(Not discussed by the group but written in a personal capacity.)

The author came from Weston-Super-Mere and went to the prestigious Broadoak Comprehensive School.

In January 2006, his partner, Jorge, closed down his high fashion menswear Provincetown shop, Dirty White Boy and with Clayton re-opened it on Old Compton Street in London’s Soho. Clayton and Jorge lived below their Soho shop. Over a two year period, during which business went from bad to worse, manager Littlewood watched the ebb and flow of London’s so-called Dirty Square Mile and wrote down his observations in this book, which started life as a blog on myspace. This blog got a huge following leading to a column in the London Paper.

Interviewed in Polari Magazine Clayton said, “I’ve always written diaries. I’ve kept them for years, but just sporadically, during important moments. So when we had the shop I thought, ‘This is going to be an important moment’. I had a feeling we weren’t going to be there very long, and I wanted to document the period. We were getting all these crazy people coming into the shop, all these mad characters, but I thought rather than just write it as a diary I would post it on MySpace. It was the first time that I’d shown anybody what I had written.

For over 200 years, Soho was the centred of London’s thriving sex industry and is also now London’s major gay village, centred on Old Compton Street, where dozens of gay or gay-friendly business owners set up shop in order to profit from the “pink
pound.”

There are street people who stop by the store for a bit of change or even just a hug. There are the wild celebs and wannabe celebs. There are the young hustlers who are aging too fast from the lifestyle and the drugs. There is the constant drama of the brothel upstairs. And there is the once-was and maybe-will-be-again coupling of Leslie and Charlie.

There is the elderly man who comes in once a month to educate Clayton on all the different types and cuts and styles of underwear (and never buys a thing). There is Pam, a local who comes ’round asking for money or “cuddles” – and is equally happy with either. The madam and her hookers who live and work upstairs, or the myriad of older businessmen who are dragged in to the shop by their flaming, kept houseboys.

I found it funny and sad in turns. There is irony by the ladleful.

The author’s blog is here

Quotations:

QX [a British bar rag] recently ran a feature on the ‘faces of Soho.’ Drag queens, DJ’s, club owners, cabaret acts, promoters, party hosts. Anyone who’s anyone in ‘gay glitterati’ land. . . .[However] the real faces of Soho are never featured. You won’t see them in the documentaries on Soho that seem to pop up on our televisions with increasing frequency. Yet they are the lifeblood of the village. They are the underclass, the true eccentrics, the waifs and strays the party crowd passes by as they make their way to the Shadow Lounge.”

Chico, “a very colorful, Afro-Caribbean American, based in London. Decked out in Gucci, D&G, Prada. You name it, he flaunts it. And he’s become one of our regular customers…..was once a Diana Ross impersonator who married rich, but his boyfriend died. Thus he was left with a large amount of money, two properties, and a broken heart. The perfect aphrodisiac for a QX hooker.”

“The judge, obviously not well versed in the whole gay client/hooker scene, saw “’Black Man Rapes White Man‘ and put him away” for six years.

the feisty transsexual Angela Pasquale. A Janice Dickinson look-a-like, the tall – “at least six foot three” – and stunning Ms. Pasquale has “a beautiful face and big pair of creamy white breasts that look like they’re about to wrap themselves around my neck. ’You’re not stealing my lines again, are you?’ said Angela when she caught Clayton taking notes for his Blog. ‘Well, actually…I am,’ he replied. ‘But only because you’re part of Soho. . . .’ ‘Girl – I AM SOHO!’ she retorts, removing her glasses and shaking out her hair, up and down, backwards and forwards, letting her luscious locks drape over the glass counter.”

Leslie, “a small, old gentleman dressed in a beige three-piece suit with a white handkerchief flowing extravagantly from the top pocket.” Leslie, who knew Soho “in the old days,” entertained Clayton and his readers with his reminiscences and touched us with his star-crossed love affair with Charlie, a writer Leslie loved and lost. “We were lovers . . . And then one day he broke my heart.”

I’m sitting behind the counter. A bearded guy walks in—white T-shirt, camoufl trousers, rucksack on his back. He smiles. I smile back. browses the racks for a few minutes, pulls out a Dirty Boy vest, walks over to the counter.

“I’ll take this.”

“Okay. That’s half price. Thirteen pounds fifty,” cheerfully.

As I wrap the vest he takes off his rucksack, plonks it the floor, bends down, rummaging inside for his wallet. “What time do you finish?”

“We’re open ’til eight.”

“You wanna go out?” he asks, expectantly.

“Ummm. No, thank you. I can’t tonight.”

“We can go to the cinema, a bite to eat, whatever want. Just the two of us.”
“I can’t. Sorry,” I reply, a bit firmer. “I’ve got a partn “Okay, I’ll see you at nine o’clock outside Compton’s.

“You’re persistent, aren’t you?” I reply, laughing. Then he stands up. Looks at me strangely. And carries on talking into his mobile.

I’m sitting by the window, buffing my nails, catching up on world politics in Boyz magazine

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