(Gay) Identity and Future

They asked me how I knew
My true love was true
I of course replied
Something here inside
Cannot be denied
About this blog
This is my first blog. It's a mixture of weblog and journal, with postings about my life as a gay man, and gay issues I care about. The idea is to talk about my own identity, and about what "gay identity" is now - and is becoming.

The relationship between gay sexual feelings, gay sex, and the rest of life, has always been one of tension and conflict -- within individuals and between gay people. The places where these differences show most acutely are in views and decisions about "coming out" and "equal rights". But what it is to be gay, and what it means to live openly as a gay person, have changed. They're enormously more varied. And so the meanings of "coming out" and "equality" have changed too.


John Adams (#)
Thomas Ades (#)
Julian Anderson (1 2)
Harrison Birtwistle (#)
Hans Werner Henze (#)
Magnus Lindberg (1 2)
Colin Matthews (#)
Peter Maxwell Davies (#)
Thea Musgrave (1 2)
Esa Pekka Salonen (1 2)
Kaija Saariaho (1 2 3)
Mark Anthony Turnage (#)

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August 14, 2003

What connects the scenes above with Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles, Charles de Gaulle, and the boiled bones skins and tendons of animals? (not to mention Julie Andrews, Klimt and plastecine and spit) ....if you want to know how a two-foot long prick touches them all, the answers are here, here, and here. Mozart would have had a good laugh I'm sure! (More photos here).

August 13, 2003

With banner headline, the front page of today's Independent:
    Two reporters, one story: Campbell sexed up the dossier
    Alastair Campbell's alleged role in "sexing up" the September dossier to justify war in Iraq was disclosed to a second BBC journalist by David Kelly, the Hutton inquiry heard yesterday. The disclosure, which came at the end of the second day of the special inquiry into the death of the scientist, immediately swung the advantage to the corporation in its ongoing confrontation with No 10.
The same newspaper carries this report inside, with a somewhat different headline:
    Serious differences emerge between BBC journalists over David Kelly
    There were "significant differences" between what government scientist David Kelly told Susan Watts, BBC2 Newsnight's science editor, and his remarks as reported by her BBC colleague Andrew Gilligan. "He didn't say to me that the dossier was transformed in the last week and he certainly didn't say that the 45-minute claim was inserted either by Alastair Campbell or by anyone else in Government... "
After the last few months I thought it was impossible for the loathsome Independent to be more sickening, self-righteous, hypocritical, untruthful and vicious. I was wrong. There is no absolute zero of Independent vileness.

The whole Hutton Inquiry is as pernicious as it is unecessary, as Michael Gove so brilliantly demonstrated in the Times yesterday:
    The whole Hutton hoo-hah is not really about Dr Kelly. Well before he took his own life politicians with a grudge and journalists with an agenda were demanding that a judge be sent for to try the Government for daring to win the war in Iraq. Those pressing for an inquiry wanted it to advance their political goals: some wanted to tarnish the Government’s press operation; others wished to undermine the Government itself; yet others hoped to discredit the whole notion that Western powers are entitled to use force as they see fit in defence of their people and their interests.
How ironic that this fatuous irrelevance has, through its website, provided the most extensive public access to government documents and proceedings in the history of British central administration.

August 11, 2003

Matthew Parris in the Times says that God would not have approved of gay bishops, and lectures "trendy" Christians about their understanding of the scriptures and revealed religion. This comes from a man who declares an agnosticism which is "as close to atheism as makes no difference."

The fact is that the whole business of electing and enthroning bishops, and of according them authority in a church, is a matter wholly for the members of that Church, and, to a lesser degree, Christians generally. For non-Christians, including non-Christian gays like myself, it is a matter of complete irrelevance, and I am completely indifferent about it.

I think Christianity has nothing of interest or value to say to gay people, and I can only look on with malicious bemusement as Anglicans tie themselves in knots over mitres and crooks. I don't care what the Most Rev Peter Akinola, Primate (in the ecclesiastical sense) of Nigeria thinks about homosexuality any more than I care what he thinks about any other subject -- which is precisely nothing.

July 31, 2003
(from A Roman Catholic Love Story)

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has today published Considerations Regarding Proposals to give Legal Recognition to Unions between Homosexual Persons with the full approval of Pope John Paul II. It initiates a campaign against gay unions, and gay people -- it is the formal start of a war, and the Pope is issuing an international call to arms:
    Since this question relates to the natural moral law, the arguments that follow are addressed not only to those who believe in Christ, but to all persons committed to promoting and defending the common good of society.

    Those who would move from tolerance to the legitimization of specific rights for cohabiting homosexual persons need to be reminded that the approval or legalization of evil is something far different from the toleration of evil.

    There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God's plan for marriage and family. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

    In those situations where homosexual unions have been legally recognized or have been given the legal status and rights belonging to marriage, clear and emphatic opposition is a duty. One must refrain from any kind of formal cooperation in the enactment or application of such gravely unjust laws and, as far as possible, from material cooperation on the level of their application. In this area, everyone can exercise the right to conscientious objection.
Q1.What words best describe the Pope?
Q2. How should gay people treat Roman Catholics?

July 29, 2003

An American TV public service announcement made in the 1980s shows a man in a dinner jacket, who speaks on behalf of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD):
    I'm proud to live in this great, free country and I'm proud of our commitment to free speech. And I'm proud of our country's commitment to protecting the rights of its citizens to work and live free from bigotry and violence. That's why I was amazed to discover that many people die each year in anti-gay attacks and thousands more are left scarred, emotionally and physically. Bigotry has no place in this great nation, and violence has no place in this world, but it happens. Prejudice hurts, kills. Please don't be a part of it.
Which showbiz star was it who felt concerned enough to make that advertisement? Surprisingly, perhaps, it was the late Bob Hope.

July 28, 2003

The World Body Painting Festival held in Seeboden-Millstättersee in Austria concluded yesterday. The work of photographers and the event photogalleries are extraordinarily comprehensive.

It would appear that the vast majority of those having their bodies painted were women from Germany, while the body "artists" and photographers were men. Among the sponsors were Lipton's Tea, Kodak and ... (you guessed) the European Union, which also helped fund "Bodies in the Scenery" (see it to believe it -- likewise the gruesome photo of the month). Much more information is available on the wide-ranging Bodypainting site (unfortunately mostly in German), but the photogalleries speak for themselves.

July 23, 2003

Isn't this the cutest little piece of javascript?

50 Things That Made Me What I Am

5. Tom of Finland   The pornographic cartoons of Tom of Finland (born Touko Laaksonen in 1920) have for several decades held a special place in the imagery of gay men across the world. Their world of leather-clad muscle-boys, bikers, and cops, giving and taking with delight every imaginable twist of bondage, S&M and penetrative domination, seems to be displayed on the walls of gay bars on every continent. There can hardly be a single edition of a gay publication that does not hi-jack or imitate his drawings in at least one advertisement.

Detail of drawing by Tom of Finland
                           [full detail]

The very second I saw a drawing by Tom of Finland I was riveted and electrified --- and awakened. From the very first instant my eyes fell on it, I recognised that it connected with and expressed an elementary part of my sexual personality. I wonder how many other gay men have had the same experience - hundreds of thousands, I would guess. For many immersion in Tom's fantasies of exaggerated masculinity (with physiques equally impossible and arousing) represents the extent to which they enter the world of leather sex; for others they are a first step to their real-life enactment. Either way, for me there was no element of incomprehension, no gradual corruption by insidious sadomasochistic seduction --- as much as anything was already there, waiting in the dark of my psyche to be illuminated, this was. Some years later I came across the ideas that particular "circuits" in the brain are already connected -- genetically or in the earliest period of life -- and spring into life when the switch is thrown. It was a description I immediately connected with my experience of Tom of Finland.

Tom's work continued to appear in new (and ever more erotic phases) for many years after I first discovered it. Its availability, and its influence, gradually took it out of its difficult and unmentionable sub-cultural niche and into the "mainstream" of gay life, and it played no small part in the parallel transferral of the homosexual leather sex scene itself from the special vocabulary of gay sexual mores into everyday "straight" society.

As this occurred Tom's work, alongside Mapplethorpe's, was beatified by the guardians of artistic validity and aesthetic taste (a develoment not unconnected with the price which originals were fetching) and -- somewhat awkwardly nevertheless, in my opinion -- it began to be talked about as the oeuvre of an original creative artist. At the same time biographies and retrospectives of Tom's work began to be published, and although commentary and interpretation was most appreciative and incisive in gay publications, once again the mainstream began to "notice" his general significance.

Back under the stone of the S&M sub-culture, Tom became one of a "stable" of hyper-realist S&M cartoonists with Etienne, the Hun and several others. To the extent that these artists have established an original, personal style (and sexual imagination!) they have achieved success alongside and with Tom. But they have never come near to challenging his expressive bravura, nor has their novelty displaced his intrinsic freshness.

Indeed, it has always been a mark of Tom's impact on me (and a comment on those processes of adoption and elaboration) that the erotic charge of Tom's drawings has neither dimmed over the years, nor lost its edge with repeated viewings and autoerotic utilisations. I remember very well the first Tom drawing I saw, and it excites me as much now as on that day back in 1975 (even though much of the Tom's most intense work had not yet been produced then). What a reassurance (albeit of the most ironic description) of the endurance without diminution of those internalised images that speak most completely to our sexual drives, and so keep love alive.

Tom's technical mastery is, of course, the key to the power of his imagery. But it is a testimony to Tom's symbolic distillation of the mythic Graeco-German athlete-warrior in male homosexual instincts that narrative and character are so important and involving. Tom's milieux literally breathe unifying sensibilities, and enmesh one in the interplays of universal sexual games: youth and age, flirtation and rape, innocence and experience, transgression and punishment, hierarchy and chaos, conformity and rebellion, in which challenge, assertion and submission are played out through numerous sexualised symbols of authority, especially uniform. How many gay men are comprehensively turned on by Tom despite themselves? How many will admit it?

July 21, 2003

    Dr Kelly approached his superiors within the Ministry of Defence to admit that he had met Mr Gilligan. He was questioned by officials for five days, and warned about his conduct. He was then named in a letter from Mr Hoon to the BBC on 9 July. The name was leaked on the same day. As well as being questioned by two Commons committees, one meeting in private, Dr Kelly had to move into a safe house provided by the MoD for several days, to avoid the journalists outside his home near Abingdon
Not surprisingly the TV, radio and press have omitted to scrutinise their conduct towards the late Dr Kelly, rather than the substantive claims and counter-claims about the veracity of his statements and BBC reports. We can only imagine what level of abusive invasion press attention reached for it to have been necessary to move him to a safe location; or what distress and fear on behalf of his family such hounding by the press would have occasioned. We all know, surely, that encampments of news journalists mean petty bribery across the whole neighbourhood to discover ways of gaining access to the property of the jounalists' prey, or to extract any scurrilious, sensational or speculative information about their object, or his family, that serves their vicious and mendacious methods. The suggestion that this such conduct is in the public interest is as reputable a claim as the idea that pulling the wings off flies is principally a pest-control measure.

Appearances and evidence before committees of MPs might not be intolerable for a long-serving civil servant -- but the British press corps in full war cry would destroy the life and morale of many a stronger man than Dr Kelly. Such is conduct of a press that, as media commentator Roy Greenslade said, lacks all standards. And they call for the Prime Minister to resign!

July 20, 2003

Pictures from Cindy Sherman and the film Four FeathersThree weeks behind with the alterations to our house, and the workermen from one of the best building contractors in the area continue to destroy more than they create. So far they have
  • broken the boiler (no hot water until all the radiators have reached take-off temperature -- so we are driven to use as little hot water as possible)

  • poured wet plaster all over the hall carpet

  • installed a new shower and then immediately broken it

  • gunged up the CD player with dust having failed to seal the room it is in

  • blown all the upstairs fuses, and

  • broken the cooker (and so far failed to act on promises to mend it)
We just have to get away, so we are heading down to London to catch the Ciny Sherman exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery before walking over to the Royal Albert Hall for tonight's Prom - a concert performance of Michael Tippett's King Priam (which I last saw 20 years ago when Kent Opera gave it one of the (homo)sexiest productions I have ever seen - no hopes of that tonight!). We're hoping that both will make up for the dire expanses of The Four Feathers which we inflicted on ourselves last night -- despite the presence of Wes Bentley, Rupert Penry-Jones and Alex Jennings it was almost as bad as watching the builders fill the fridge with cement!


Ananova has recently reported some fascinating survey findings.

A poll of the residents of Baghdad found that 50% thought the US was right to invade Iraq (as against 27% who thought it was wrong), despite the fact that only 27% of the same respondents thought that one of the motives was to liberate the Iraqi people.
~ 26% said they felt friendly towards the British and US forces and 18% said that they were hostile, while 50% said they were "neither friendly nor hostile".
~ As far as occupation was concerned, 31% said the US forces should stay for a few years, 25% that they should stay about a year, 20% that they should leave within 12 months, and 13% that they should go immediately.
~ With resepct to the future, 36%, said they would like to see a Western-style democracy, while 26% wanted some form of Islamic rule "tempered by modern ideals of justice and punishment", and 6% favoured strict Islamic rule with mullahs in charge. A core of 5% favoured Saddam.

There were other extraordinary revelantions:
~ Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen came first among "male celebrities women secretly fancy but pretend not to" - a fascinating concept. Apparently these wowen have "a Mills and Boon-esque desire to be seduced by a man with a Prince Charming hair who won't moan when you suggest a shopping trip to Ikea."
~ almost 25,000 people had sex at this year's Glastonbury Festival, 56% on Friday night
~ 19.1% of 18-30 year olds admitted to drinking almost constantly when they went on holiday
~ 7% of Norwegians change their underwear only once a week (and some less often) making them the "dirtiest people in Europe"
~ and offices have been rocked by these findings:
    One in three workers have come close to leaving their job because of the irritating habits of their colleagues. A list of the most annoying behaviour included listening to voicemails on speaker phone and swearing at computers. Virtually everyone said they hated being sent an email by someone sitting a few feet away."

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