(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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May 31, 2002
Tarantella SerpentineI was grabbed by the name Tarantella Serperntine, who turned out to be a transvestite "performance poet" and Goth musician called Marcus Lanyon, who does regular concerts and recordings. Nightmare ("music for wierdos") described him as "frankly bonkers", though he sounds sane enough in an interview about his work with Rhythm US. Two little "stories" on the Tarantella Serpentine website are hilariously, totally, un-missably SICK [No 1 and No 2] - but they also define a kind of radically uncompromising hostility to the normal that is very close, I think, to the ethos of "queer" --- as are a few other things on the Tarantella Serpentine website. The sting is in the tail - Marcus Lanyon lives in Cheltenham Spa, the quintessentially wealthy, elegant, cultured (excellent classical music festival), provincial English town, in the heart of fox-hunting country. So English eccenticity lives into the next generation.

Another search report has amused me: Here Inside ranks No 2 for anyone searching for "Hayden Christensen's penis" using Comet Web Search -- can anyone tell me where it is? - I'd like to look at it.

I was amused to see that a Google search result for "this is our youth - hayden christensen" which led to this page merged sentences from several entries to produce: "Do I think Hayden Christensen ... adds the incomparable taste and scent of succulent fruit to our ... sounds all very worthy...". Now what flavour would he be?

May 30, 2002
David BenioffReading: The 25th Hour by David Benioff. A crime novel set in New York, it was published a year ago in the US, but has only just come out here. The reviews have been excellent and the author is hot! It's currently being made into a film produced by Tobey Maguire, directed by Spike Lee and starring Edward Norton. (The author's website provides a list of suggested music to listen to while reading the novel!)

The latest edition of "The Filter" - the regular e-newsletter from the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at the Harvard Law School is full of news/comment items that are essential, interesting, surprising and amusing reading, with a wealth of well-directed links. In one way or another all the items relate to blogging and gay internet issues, in this edition mainly copyright and intellectual property matters. The issues can be followed in greater depth at the Berkman Center site, where it's also possible to subscribe to "The Filter".

This comes just as Creative Commons launches, with the idea of "providing an easy method by which creators can indicate, in a machine-readable format, how others may use their intellectual works":
    You're making a movie and need still images. You're starting out as a photographer and want to spread the word. You're teaching a course and need materials. You've written an article and you want people to analyze it. You're building a website and need graphics. You're a digital artist who wants to collaborate with other artists. You're performing a concert and need a symphony. You've composed a symphony and want people to perform it... The Creative Commons will provide a free set of tools to enable creators to share aspects of their copyrighted works with the public... If, for example, an artist wants to make her music available for non-commercial use, or with just attribution, our tools will help her express those intentions in a 'machine-readable' form. Computers will then be able to identify and understand the terms of an author's license, making it easier for people to search for and share creative works. [more]
The principal force behind these developments is Professor Lawrence Lessig, formerly of the Berkman Center, and founder of the Stanford Center for Internet and Society which, like the Berkman Center, is a hotspot in action on free speech, privacy, diversity, and scientific inquiry. Lessig's views about the future of the Internet are attracting a lot of attention. Interviewed in reasononline he shows how different aspects of hardware, software and content interact to affect Internet freedoms, while in a panel discussion (with Q&A session) at the Commonwealth Club of California he attacked the way monopoly corporations and government regulation were threatening the future of Internet innovation.

May 29, 2002
Idleness... Disconnected Zeitgeist post and comments about the gold-painted Will Young are principally interested in his nipples -- and those of Hayden Christensen, subjects (especially Christensen's) about which we have not heard nearly enough. On which issue, what is Anakin doing in the photo capture? Meanwhile, I thought this was very witty and right on the mark (as if...). (Do I think Hayden Christensen [fansites: 1 2 3 4 5] is kinda nice?... oooooh, yeh... I guess you could say so. What's wrong with that?)

May 28, 2002
While reading about porcupine quills I came across some way out photos of male piercing, including something that I, in my innocence, had never before encountered - the Prince's Wand (which leaves the simple Prince Albert standing). It looks like a hoax -- especially the accompanying "real life" stories and diagrams. But the links to suppliers like John the Wand Man and Steelwerks check out. Could this be the raw material for next year's "shocking" film at Cannes?

Frankie brought us face to face with the gay S&M Bar Rectum in Irréversible (there's a 9-minute rape-murder too) and appears to have paid a price. But now comes news of a Cannes showing (outside the Festival) of a British film that is (horror!) even more shocking. Not that reviewers seem able to agree what Nine Dead Gay Guys is about. The London Observer reports:
    The plot revolves around two young boys who arrive in London from Belfast to try to make a living. Unemployed, they quickly fall into the underground lifestyle of the rent boy, and build up a clientele of gay misfits, mostly drawn from a pool of negative racial stereotypes...
including a cattle-prod wielding dwarf. The film's promoter said: 'It is just a light-hearted look at the scrapes these two boys get into.' Planet Out reports:
    The plot revolves around a pair of naive heteros who pull a heist in the London gay underworld... When nine gay characters manage to get the loot back, the evil breeders promise that the guys are "as good as dead".
While is concerned only with Boy George who will 'sport a huge penis -- said to be the biggest in film history -- the size and width of two Red Bull cans put together.' The film also stars Michael Praed, and Steven Berkoff (whose character is killed 'while being violently sodomised'). Can you wait?

May 26, 2002
After Mark mentioned the subject of sexual relations between porcupines I couldn't help checking it out in more detail. It turns out that the actual mating itself, due to distribution of quills and genitalia, and female acrobatics, is not particularly "dangerous" (and so can't be used as an alternative metaphor for "walking on egg shells"). But porcupines do have a claim to a place in the lexicon of sexual euphemisms for their method of achieving pre-coital arousal:
    The male approaches on his hind legs and tail, grunting in a low tone. His penis springs erect. He then becomes a urine cannon, squirting high-pressure jets of urine... Everything suggests the urine is fired by ejaculation, not released by normal bladder pressure. In less than a minute, a [sex partner] may be thoroughly wetted from nose to tail.

May 25, 2002
Via John Cussack in New Zealand comes news of a revolution in sexual tastes. Sweet Release is...
    an oral supplement that alters the scent and taste of your sexual fluids... The female formula of Sweet Release™ changes her fluids to a delicious soft citrus flavor and the men’s formula changes his fluids to a wonderful crisp hard apple. Sweet Release™ adds the incomparable taste and scent of succulent fruit to our oral sex lives.
And the pills take effect in 7-28 days. Crunch!

May 24, 2002
I'd just made that post about "Sexual Encounters 1.0" when I read (courtesy of wood s lot) that "You Are What You Link". It's an idea explored in yesterday's entry in Golublog, a really interesting blog by a grad. student at the University of Chicago who's writing his dissertation about "the Ipili-speaking people of the Porgera valley in Enga Province, Papua New Guinea". Now you can bet your bottom dollar the Ipili-speaking people don't need software to help them keep track of all their tricks!

Thanks to Firda for discovering this essential software from PocketGear. My Sexual Encounters 1.0 "is a simple program that allows you to record details on all your sexual encounters.Never forget his/her name again!"

May 23, 2002
Listening to: Yundi Li playing Chopin. The CD arrived today and I sure have been waiting for it! 19 years old and living in Shenzhen in southern China, Yundi won the 2000 Warsaw Piano Competition, and shot to celebrity virtuoso status. This debut recording, which came out in April, like his concerts in the Far East, has received universally ecstatic reviews. The only concern had been the efforts of the record company (DGG) to market him as a fashion icon -- but if it sells his CDs to Kylie fans, does it matter? The third piano sonata is pure light, but the high-point is the Andante Spianato Et Grande Polonaise Brillante Op.22, simultaneously calm and thrilling. How does a boy from modern China express every feeling of a nineteenth century Polish romantic? Who is Yundi? Who was the real Chopin? Doesn't Yundi look cute in a white suit?

YAQ: Young African Queers. It's really worth having a look at this site. What it's about sounds all very worthy: "Yaq is a safe space where youth can express themselves and share stories and experiences relevant to their lives as African gay and lesbian youth." But apart from the fact that that is in itself pretty revolutionary in modern Africa, the site design, content and ideas are all, in a word, really kewl. Plus there are some nice trans-cultural expressions like Kgwete (an empowering Tswana and seSotho word, with a similar meaning to "gay", but with a strong African identity, meaning powerful, beautiful and unique).

May 22, 2002
The Washington Blade reports responses to a proposal by anti-gay Congressmen (3 Republicans and 3 Democrats) for a constitutional amendment forbidding states to legalise gay marriage. The proposal could also ban partnership laws, and laws requiring equal treatment of gay couples. The Bush administration is not interested and does not support it. The vast majority of Republicans and Democrats are against. Predictably, the main support came from religious groups. Also in favour was Walter Fauntroy (the black Democrat who used to represent Washington D.C. in Congress), who said the measure would provide much-needed strengthening to the Afro-American family. Among religious representatives speaking out against the proposal was Rabbi David Saperstein, who said:
    This bill is about targeting scapegoats, and as Jews, who have been the quintessential scapegoats of Western civilization, we stand with our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters saying that this bill is immoral and unjust.
The history of proposed constitutional amendments -- of which there have been many thousands, but fewer than twenty adopted -- does not suggest the proposal will ever pass. But it provides an issue for anti-gay groups to use as propaganda and to attract support, especially from church-goers. (The Data Lounge also covers the story.)

There's been a lot of attention in the British media about the new adoption law going through parliament, that will allow unmarried couples (straight and gay) to permanently adopt children (single people, including gays, have been able to adopt for some time). For some gay people, especially in the USA, reproduction and parenting rights are a big issue. But outside wistful monologues in gay pubs near closing time, I can't say I've come across that many gay men here who feel their lack of children of their own is a terrible blight on their lives (except to the extent that they wish they could stop their own mothers going on about it).

But gay equality isn't the reason for the proposed change anyway. The driving force behind the new rules is an urgent need for homes for all the kids who are currently in local authority care awaiting adoption. Reducing the length of time children spend in care would be good for the kids (not least because the institutions are for ever being revealed as sinks of sexual and physical abuse), and -- surprise, surprise -- would save the government a whole lot of money.

As far as I'm concerned, having children (whether or not I was the biological father) is just about the last thing I want, and the "right" of gay men to adopt is not one that I would spend much time fighting for. Why not just let straight people and the government get on with the problem without using gay couples to bale them out. As the December 2000 White Paper on adoption shows (summary | pdf download complete), a large part of the problem is the tangle of red tape and social work interference to which governments have subjected all families and child-care, without improving anything. Really, gay people are better off out of this attempt to manage and regulate every aspect of existence.

Listening to: Alban Berg's opera Lulu. Currently being performed to good reviews at English National Opera, it's the opera of twentieth century personal identity. Berg's sister was a lesbian and so is one of the most important characters in the opera, Countess Geschwitz.

May 21, 2002
Cherie Booth (Blair) writing in the Law section* of today's Times offers this fascinating view of progress:
    I have just been in a case in the Court of Appeal where two out of the three judges were women. After my opponent had addressed the Bench rather awkwardly as “My Ladies and my Lord”, the male judge lent over the bench and announced that he would be happy to be referred to as “My Lady” for the purposes of economy of presentation at the hearing. Surely this is a sign of the times!
Perhaps it is, but what does it say about England when the PM's wife thinks a man wearing a long wig and a black dress asking to be called "My Lady" is a sign of progress? Interestingly Cherie comments later "I could not have got where I am today without the support of my husband." Something no gay man could say. A sign of the times?     *Requires (free) registration.

Can anyone suggest a suitable caption for this recent BBC news photo of the England World Cup footballers David Beckham and Gareth Southgate? I don't seem to be able to think of anything but tit-clamps.

May 20, 2002
Geraint's visit was a lot of fun. Last night William cooked dinner (salmon followed by apple charlotte -- with enormous portions), then today Geraint and I went to the Cathedral to hear his composition performed by a visiting choir from Munich. We went and met them before the concert, and they were so pleased to meet G. that they commissioned him to write a new piece for them for a concert they are planning in Germany next year. Oh, but how depressing Coventry was... as it always is. Even the most dramatic features of the Cathedral like the (now widely known and appreciated) Sutherland tapestry "Christ in Glory" seem unable to enliven the dreary spaces spreading out all around. It takes me ages to recover!

May 17, 2002
Seals sighted in Christchurch Harbour. Well, it was their heads seen from a boat, rather than any underwater activity, but that was still quite a thrill. Plus hundreds of mute swans, cormorants and a nesting heron, and the songs of skylarks ascending over Hengistbury Head. Meanwhile I got to sunbathe and sleep and do nothing and not reply even when people spoke to me. Heaven. Partner W. bought a copy of David Leavitt's Florence, A Delicate Case -- which he found in the travel section (and not the "gay books" section) of a large bookshop in Bournemouth. I wonder what other gay books can be found in the different sections of the bookshop? Anyway, Bart will be pleased - he has a fellow Leavitt fan in William. As usual, I shall ask for verbal reports of the best bits.

May 15, 2002
"On Your Toes" was a big hit - at least the dance numbers were. You don't see dancing like Adam Cooper's very often on any stage, let alone at the Haymarket Theatre, Leicester for £16. But the show itself lacks memorable songs, and it's far from short. Combined with the fact that the theatre had no air-conditioning (total melt-down and programme-fans all around), it dragged.

Geraint, one of my closest, best friends is coming up at the weekend from Wales. We were at College together, where he studied music. He taught composition in the University of Wales for a while, before commissioning for a classical record company, and now he's a full time composer (as well as appearing on Radio3, which I find terribly impressive). He's coming up to hear a piece performed at Coventry Cathedral, but he'll stay ahere and we will have plenty of time to reduce one another to helpless endless laughter and hit the local gay bars!.

Before G. arrives I have to go down to the South coast with partner to collect my mother from her Spring holiday flat in Southbourne. Mother's flat is on the cliff top looking out to sea with the Isle of Wight in the near distance. We get to stay a few days, and as the weather is supposed to be good, and seals have been sighted in Christchurch Bay, perhaps there's be some time for nature-watching. If not, the it'll be sitting lazin' (or being blown away by the fucking wind) on the balcony, and an excursion to Studland (no, not the gay cruising ground in the dunes, and certainly not the straight nudist section!) - just the beach and sea. We drive down later this morning - it should take about 2-3 hours depending on speed camera locations and traffic jams.

May 11, 2002
A new series of the Curious Gardeners started tonight on BBC1. It's a funny concept - two elderly gay men (both in their late 60s), who have been a couple since the early 1970s, go round beautiful gardens all over the country, discussing the design, flowers, planting, and so on, and bickering affectionately in the way long-married couples do. Homosexuality -- not exactly central to a box hedge or a display of cannas -- is never actually mentioned. But why the English Guy Cooper and American Gordon Taylor should be going round together like this is rather, well, obvious. And the word play in the programme's title... "curious" = "inquisitive" and "queer". And the opening credits for this second series... the two appear in "panels" in the style of Gilbert and George. What is it saying about being gay? It's certainly about the only time you ever see an elderly gay couple in any situation on TV. The programme itself is rather good - insightful and full of the most beautiful places. But to me it also presents a vision of a gay couple who have spent their lives together - contrasted yet suited, with a common interest they found and developed together, more individual the more they are together, differing about little things because the important ones are all long established. Will I be like that one day?

May 10, 2002
The latest Pop Top 100 from 31,000 readers of British Hit Singles gives the No 1 place to "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen. Well, why not? But what (I suppose) everyone wants to know is, where did Kylie place? Well, "Better the Devil You Know" was at 41, and "Can't Get You Out of My Head" made 63. Not bad - only a few doors away from "Bat Out of Hell" (yeh! bang that head!) from Meatloaf. Abba and Madonna were both in three times, but so (eugh) were the Spice Girls.

Among those missing completely (boos and cheers) were: Chuck Berry, Elvis Costello, Diana Ross/Supremes, Supertramp, Nickelback, Boy George, Wham, Monkeys, Little Richard, Cliff Richard, Snoop Doggy Dogg, Ricky Martin, Chicago, Tina Turner and Bette Midler (who else?). Absurd (and worse) entries included: "Baby One More Time" Britney Spears (23), "My Heart Will Go On" Celine Dion (28), "I Turn to You" Melanie C (29), "Baker Street" Gerry Rafferty (34), "I'll be Missing You" Puff Daddy and Faith Evans (36), "Wuthering Heights" Kate Bush (40), "Stan" Eminem (54), "Hero" Mariah Carey (67). In the Times the editor of British Hit Singles commented:
    The list was inevitably shaped by the characteristics of the readers of the book, most of whom are male and aged from the late twenties to the late forties. These are people who are very anoraky in the sense that they will have sat down for a long time before they decided which songs made it into their personal top ten. They take their music very seriously, but the presence of some very recent songs suggests that younger members of their families may also have been allowed to make choices.
I thought the most poignant entry was Gloria Gaynor at 87 with "I Will Survive". Now if all the homo votes had gone to that great gay anthem, we would still be 13% from the bottom. Perhaps that's not the way to look at it.

    Oh no not I! I will survive!
    Oh as long as I know how to love I know I'll stay alive,
    I've got all my life to live,
    And I've got all my love to give,
    I'll survive, I will survive!

May 09, 2002
Andrew Sullivan has a good number of posts (too many to link all of them) with some pretty interesting observations about all aspects of the Pim Fortuyn murder in Holland. He makes clear that "extreme right" (even if it points to the political "niche" of his party organisation) is not an accurate description of the man and his views. (In the same way Le Pen, whose views I think are totally objectionable still requires careful analysis -- a thing most news reports didn't attempt, obsessed as they were with street demonstrations by the very left-wingers whose infantile candidates had created the mess in the first place).

It's especially hard, now, to make sense of Fortuyn (in Dutch or European or gay politics) because he was a new phenomenon (very much unlike Le Pen!) with a savvy media presence, right in the middle of the necessarily combative and over-simplifying world of electoral contest. The (London) "Times" yesterday had a good piece on the politics of "cultural protest" - and there are useful insights to be found in the US over the past twenty years, where a "cuture war" has been going on over issues of race, gender, sexuality, religion, education and rights.

It is interesting to read Martijn ten Napel, a Dutch gay blogger, reflecting horror and sadness at Fortuyn's murder and its impact on Dutch society and democracy - but unsure how to characterise or explain Fortuyn himself.

Nixon in China by John AdamsListening to: the opera Nixon In China (1987) by one of my very favourite composers John Adams. One listener review on Amazon described it as "classical music that rocks". Well yeh, too right! I can't listen enough times to the sequence where the people wait for the arrival of Nixon's plane (Chorus: "The people are the heroes now") which appears in the sky, lands and Nixon and Pat walk down onto the runway (Aria, Nixon: "News" -- a fantastic extended rap about America -- I just love the line where he sings about "our Apollo astronauts").

May 08, 2002
Godless in GazaI found this photo in a recent post on little green footballs with the following caption: "Reeling from paedophilia scandals, the Vatican has come up with a new way to improve the image of the Catholic Church." I can't improve on that... but I wonder if anyone else can, or suggest what they're saying.

Jonathan Rhys Meyers in Bend It Like BeckhamWent to see: Bend It Like Beckham - a funny (not hilarious) film with a feel-good and very parochial story of cultural (sporting) dissonance set at the Asian-British interface in West London. It was a nice couple of hours in the cinema, but it didn't compare for a minute with Monsoon Wedding which is altogether in a different league -- it was more like an extended episode of Goodness Gracious Me, full of silly one-liners for old Asian women in saris and glasses ("Did she say lesbian? I thought she was a Pisces.") Gay themes were peripherally present in plot twists over mistaken lesbianism (hardly to be avoided in a film about a women's football team) and a lovely (nice looking and very sweet) minor character called Tony coming out to his best friend (Tony: "I like David Beckham" Friend: "Yeh, I do too." Tony: "No I mean I really like David Beckham.") It was interesting, too, to see Jonathan Rhys Meyers playing the Irish coach of the women's team a couple of years after his evil American Civil War character in Ride with the Devil - his physique filled out, his lips so wide and sensuous - a real A+.

The film did make me think about how positive a thing a sports team can be for non-straight-while-males. When I lived in New York I had a boyfriend (just about the cutest boyfriend I ever had!) who was in a gay volleyball team. They used to train at a big public school in Chelsea and I used to go down and meet him at the end of the training sessions, and go along to support them when they played matches (as the boyfriends of other team members did their mates). It was really great because they were in a totally ordinary New York league, and so they played mostly straight teams from all sorts of ordinary parts of the city (not just Manhattan). They got a big kick out of winning, and their opponents certainly saw a different slice of life. The "solidarity" and fun was really great, and they got to play the sports they really enjoyed without having to "pass" or put up with a lot of flack in a straight team. I guess it's nothing very out of the ordinary (now?), but it always struck me as a real marker on the path towards living as a gay man without having to make lots of invidious choices between "upbringing" and "self" and gay life and freedom.

Hell, I've been away in London and the South coast and neglect has become my middle name. But I'm back home in the Midlands now and ready to blog again, so...

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