HERE INSIDE
(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.

CHARLIE'S
FAVOURITES
LIVING COMPOSERS

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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April 30, 2002
Whey! Bart really stirred up an amazing response when he went cruising in a dark park in Italy at midnight. Everyone said it was a pretty dangerous thing to do -- and that's certainly true. Blogging friends care for one another, and don't want to see one of our number get robbed or knifed or arrested. But is there more to it? What does the park at night mean to gay men? Not so long ago it was just about the only place gay men could ever meet for sex. It lots of places it still is. For anyone with anything to hide, it's the safest anonymity, with escapes in all directions. Night and vegetation cloak the identity -- but not just from others, from ourselves. It is not me who is doing this.



April 27, 2002
Walked over to the cinema with W. to see the new Hugh Grant film About a Boy. Like nearly all of Grant's films it was funny, charming and well crafted -- without touching the emotions. This means I've now been to four films in a row without any direct gay content The Royal Tenenbaums, In the Bedroom, Monsoon Weddding and About a Boy (not that there aren't some really interesting things that could be said about being gay in response to any of them). Anyway, partner and I thought it was a "nice" film - but we didn't even manage to have a disgreement about it, which we usually do if the film is really engaging!

The cinema was full, as it was for Scorpion King showing on another screen, though I'm certainly not going to that (tangentially, I do wanna get the Silver Side Up album from Nickelback --"Yanking out my Heart" is on the Scorpion King soundtrack, and on the B-side of the UK single release of "How You Remind Me". And I will be going to see Spider Man -- not least because I think Tobey Maguire was brilliant in The Ice Storm and Ride with the Devil, and in Cider House Rules -- which has a number from Nickelback's Chad Kroegar in the soundtrack. Not that Nickelback are exactly gay - but so what, gay men can like that sort of music, can't they?).


The programme of the 108th season of Henry Wood Promenade Concerts has just been announced. The first night on Friday 19th July establishes this year's themes with Spanish music and William Walton's stunning oratorio Belshazzar's Feast marking the centenary of the composer's birth. I don't know if I shall be making (m)any special trips to the Royal Albert Hall, but I expect I'll catch a good few concerts live on BBC Radio 3.



April 25, 2002
An absolutely must-read post by Marcus (Bboyblues) about all kinds of personal angles on fidelity and "open relationships".



April 24, 2002
With the Roman Catholic Church under fire over sex-abuse allegations, the Vatican -- in an effort to humanise the image of the Pope -- has released remarkable new photographs of John Paul II arriving by train for work in the morning at the Vatican City Station. Pope John Paul can be seen going over his papers before an important meeting of North American bishops. For more information about the Vatican Railway and Railway Station that Pope John Paul uses every day to commute to and from his home, click here.



At 2.00 a.m. GMT 15,198 people had voted in Question 1 of the AOL News Poll on gay marriage, and 14,947 in Question 2. The results were as follows:

Question 1. Should gay marriages be recognised by the law?
Yes. Gay couples should enjoy the same rights as heterosexuals
8159
53%
No. Marriage should be between a man and a woman.
7039
46%
Question 2. Will gay marriages undermine traditional family values?
Yes. It makes a mockery of the institution.
6886
46%
No. There is no such thing as a traditional family anymore.
8061
53%




April 23, 2002
Gays in France. There is absolutely no question what M Jean-Marie Le Pen thinks of gay people. He has coined a special word to show his contempt - sidaïque or "aids-ey" (from SIDA, the French acronym for AIDS, and "judaïque" - one of Le Pen's favourite slurs on Jewish people). Questioned about his racial views during the first round of the Presidential elections he replied
    Mon personnel est noir, ma cuisinière est noire. Que dois-je donc faire pour ne plus être accusé de racisme ? Me marier avec un noir homosexuel et sidaïque ? -- What do I have to do to answer these accusations of racism? Marry an AIDS-carrying black homosexual man?
For the most part Le Pen "defends" the traditional family from its financial and ideological "enemies", but the Front National political programme (on which Le Pen's presidential campaign stands) includes a clear attack on gays:
    La loi dispose, normalement, dans l’intérêt général. Elle n’a pas à légiférer au profit de lobbies organisés... prétendant imposer leurs comportements déviants en modèle social normatif. -- The law isn't there for organised minorities... seeking to impose their deviant way of living on normal social values.
But while Le Pen's "outlook" is self-evident, specific examples of anti-gay politics are less easy to find. "L'extrême droite et nous" (from Tétu Magazine) is particularly useful, and looks not just at anti-gay groupings, but at gay people on the far right as well. (It isn't easy reading -- not just because it's in French, but the page layout is unfriendly in any language).

Does the Le Pen phenomenon have any relevance in Britain (or the US)? I don't know. I'm trying to decide. French political and cultural history is very distinctive. But in recent years French "protest" movements have provided anti-establishment leadership to Europe.


A personal site called phespirit.info provides a quite extensive dictionary of Cockney Rhyming Slang. Not renowned for its PC values, the phrases often express a witty (and sometimes savage) commentary. Among the words that might be useful to the gay visitor to the East End of London are:
    AIDS - Ace Of Spades    Cock - Stick Of Rock
    Crabs - Dribs And Drabs    Dyke - Raleigh Bike    Gay - Doris Day
    Poof - Iron Hoof    Psychiatrist - Trick Cyclist    Queen - Nellie Dean
    Queer - Brighton Pier or Ginger Beer    Sod - Fillet Of Cod
The dictionary also reveals a particular obession with piles (haemorrhoids) for which there are 7 different phrases (including "farmer Giles" and "Nuremburg trials"), piss (6 phrases, including "cuddle and kiss"), shit and shite (6 phrases including "Brad Pitt" and "Barry White") and wank (6 phrases including "Barclay's Bank" and "Sherman Tank"). My own favourites are: dump ("Donald Trump"), sex ("Oedipus Rex") and wanker ("Merchant Banker").



April 22, 2002
Listening to: Mozart Piano Concertos Nos 20 and 21 with Mitsuko Uchida (and the English Chamber Orchestra under Jeffrey Tate). All other music seems to lack style, all other interpretations to lack delicacy.


Lots of things coming up. W. and I saw in the newspaper today about the new production of On Your Toes at the Haymarket Theatre, Leicester from May 3rd for two weeks, before transferring to the West End. It's choreographed by and stars Adam Cooper, who danced the Swan in Matthew Bourne's amazing all-male version of Swan Lake that was such an big hit here and in the US. It will be very interesting to see him in Rodgers and Hart, and I can't wait to see how he does Slaughter on Tenth Avenue. As the performances are provincial (!) previews, the ticket prices are only £10-£16 - instead of £35-£60 in London. I hope it doesn't sell out before I can get ours.

I've never really been that much of a ballet devotee -- certainly not compared with the way some gay men identify with it. I just like musical shows! But it's interesting that Cooper (like a new breed of "hot" young male opera singers) is a hit for his masculine looks and personality, as well as his dancing abilities. Like the film Billy Elliott (in which his Swan persona made a culminating appearance) Cooper has helped give the ballet-homosexuality "axis" a more approachable (for straights), less "queeny" (but still gay-friendly) image, that fits in well with the more open, relaxed circumstances of life for many gay people now.

Then (breathless) the May/June Warwick Arts Centre film programme was announced. It's a huge improvement on some of their recent offerings, with a real Arts Cinema concentration on foreign and non-commercial cinema. After seeing Monsoon Wedding there last night -- excellent (Kleenex rated) -- I'm really looking forward to seeing Bend It Like Beckham. Then in July/Aug the London Gay and Lesbian Film Festival (which has just finished) will be making its provincial tour. London -- who needs it?!



April 21, 2002
The Ananova News Agency reports the first gay partnership registration in the UK outside London -- and the first anywhere in the country to follow the same procedure as conventional heterosexual civil marriages. The gay couple were joined at Manchester's central registry office using the same ceremomy as the heterosexual couple who got married just before them. The gay union inevitably prompted suggestions of "gay marriage", but the ceremony does not change the gay couple's legal or financial status. All the same, there's bound to have been a hearty reception afterwards, and friends and family (about 80 of whom attended the ceremony) will have marked the day with presents for the couple's home. To me, whatever the civil inequalities that remain, it marks a new level of positive approval and family support. The Guardian has picked up on the story very quickly, so it will be interesting to see how the usual opinion-merchants respond.

The couple were clear that the ceremony was a personal and family matter, not a campaigning act or statement:
    Stephen, who lives with Carl in Blackley, Manchester, added that they do not see themselves as gay rights pioneers. He said: "We are here today to make a public declaration of our love and commitment. If people think we are making history then that's great but it's not our prime concern."
That's important, and represents a distinction between the right to affirm one's private identity through public institutions, and the use of marriage to highlight what the nature of gay identity is, and as a platform to demand equality. Coincidentally, gay activists in Hong Kong have just made that use of a highly public marriage ceremony to attract attention and demand equal treatment in social benefits.



April 18, 2002
The Gay Games - formerly Gay Olympics - is a pretty amazing piece of organising, and one of the most inspiring assertions of gay identity. The VI Gay Games will be in Sydney in early Noveber 2002, and tickets for the opening ceremonies and sports events go on sale in a few days. It's interesting that the Games are expanding and creating parallel gay cultural and rights and politics events programmes alongside the sporting events. Will the Gay Games soon become the international "summit" for gay people, embracing every aspect of gay life?



April 17, 2002
Pervy Pets (like, really). The Channel Four site now includes a special Pet-O-Meter which (by means of a searching 30-question quiz about Tiddles or Buster) offers the answer to the question "Which way does your pet swing?" I took the test for my aunt's friendly old moggie Albert, and he turned out to be 56% gay, with this report:
"Your cat will shag them all, he's not fussy -- he'll try anything once, tomcat or pussy".



April 16, 2002
Egyptian Update. Afrol reports:
    14 April. Yesterday an Egyptian appeals court in Damanhour, the capital of Al-Beheira province, found the so-called "Damanhour Five" not-guilty of all charges. The five men had been convicted 11 March of consensual homosexual conduct, and had been sentenced to three years' imprisonment and three years' probation.
The development was almost certainly connected with international protests, although the sentences of other gay men recently imprisoned have not been affected, and Afrol adds:
    The international outrage against the attacks on homosexuals in Egypt has not been mirrored in Egypt. On the contrary, the Egyptian press has been scandalised by the alleged behaviour of the accused and has campaigned strongly against them. National human rights groups have not dared to defend these alleged gays, noting that the general outrage against gays in Egypt would subvert their credibility in addressing other pressing human rights violations.



April 15, 2002
Patrick Nielsen Hayden's Electrolite is one of the most erudite and intelligent blogs anywhere. His postings on Israel's situation say everything.


Listening to: Murray Perahia's October 2000 recording of J S Bach's Goldberg Variations. Stunning precision, warmth, clarity, illumination. The luxurious CD website does Bach and Perahia proud.



April 14, 2002
Gay Rights in the Middle East. For gay people it is worth reflecting what kind of societies are at war in the Middle East. Many of us are familiar with the differences in views of homo-
sexuality
between Orthodox and Reform Judaism. But gay life in the state of Israel is not simply a reflection of religion, as this important recent article demonstrates. It provides an eye-opening account of advanced and supportive pro-gay aspects of Israeli society. Gay rights organisations in Israel are open and well supported, and have made major advances in recent years, including legal safeguards for jobs, and spousal benefits and pensions.

Gay life and equality in Israel rest on freedom of speech and association. These rights are absent from the Muslim states surrounding Israel, and active persecution of gay people is universal there. A recent attempt to discover some positive aspects in Muslim treatment of homosexuality is nevertheless entitled "Holy Hatred", and begins with information about imprisonment and the death penalty. The absence of formal laws against homosexuality is no protection, as a survey of the legal status of homosexuality in Africa recently reported. For example, in Somalia in February 2001 a lesbian couple were found guilty by a Muslim court of "exercising unnatural behaviour" and condemned to death: "Somalia has no laws regulating homosexuality and its general legislation is loosely based on the Shari'a law. This brutal case shows that there often is little connection between legal status and legal practice."

At the very same time that pro-Palestinian liberals attacked Israel for supposed human rights abuses, the Afrol news agency reported Egypt extending its persecution of gay men:
    Barely two weeks after 23 men were condemned in Cairo to serve prison terms at hard labour for "homosexual behaviour", two Egyptian university students were sentenced under the same law. They had been responding to an undercover police agent's request for gay contacts in an Internet chatroom... At least eight more men have been arrested in Egypt on suspicion of homosexual behavior, in what the press called a crackdown on a "network of perverts." The arrests, following on last year's trial of 52 men for homosexuality, suggest a steadily growing pattern of persecution.
The author of a deeply perecptive article, explaining the trials as a response by the Egyptian government to the political advances of radical Muslim groups, immediately lost his job at the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights on its publication.

The ILGA reports harassment and intimidation of gays in Lebanon for using the Internet, and attacks on gay freedom of speech in Jordan. Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan are seen as among the most socially liberal Muslim societies, and among the most responsible of Israel's neighbours. It is extremely unlikely that gay people could expect any better from a Palestinian state. Indeed, with the powerful influence of Iranian-financed Hammas groups, the likelihood is of more extreme Muslim practice. Are gay opponents of Israel ready to support the treatment of gays in a Palestinian state?



April 13, 2002
Metrosexual. The post below appeared today on the Archinect site Wallpaper discussion forum. The comments are rather amusing, but they also represent an example of how lifestyle and gay sexual identity are being related in a positive way - something new for gay people (though it doesn't do much for most gay [men], who are no more modern "renaissance men" than they are "limp-wristed fairies"):
    well ive heard the term metrosexual thrown around a lot lately.. i first heard it used by tyler brule to describe the target audience for *wallpaper*... he said that it is someone, who whether straight or gay, leads an urban glamorous lifestyle... i think it has a lot to do with a blurring of boundaries... both sexually and geographically. the idea of the metrosexual is also one about having more in common with say someone in fukuoka japan than even ur next door neighbour... its a global jetsetting lifestyle...

    now ive also seen the term as the name of a gay tv series on pride vision (yay canada) as well as in other articles and stuff about the new kind of male... the whole gay straight guy phenomenon... (a gay straight man is a guy who is actually straight but has "gay" qualities, ie. stylish, good taste, good cook, well rounded and read, yada yada yada...) i really like the term... i find the blurring of sexualities really interesting... and kinda hot
The whole site and its discussion boards are very exciting... especially if you're into architecture.



April 12, 2002
Anti-gay politics in Zimbabwe are back in the news. On April 4th the Afrol news agency reported the disgrace of one of President Robert Mugabe's staunchest allies:
    After two years in which the issue had largely dropped out of the headlines, homosexuality in Zimbabwe is once again making the news. The issue resurfaced after Alum Mpofu, the chief executive officer of the state-run Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC), was reportedly caught by security guards at a Harare pub over the weekend in "a compromising position with another man."  [more]



April 11, 2002
A new production of Antony and Cleopatra opens tonight at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford on Avon. After all the controversy caused by last season's disastrous Midsummer Night's Dream, the attacks on RSC Director Adrian Noble's decisions and competence, accusations of paranoid manage-
ment, the insane proposals to demolish the present theatre, and, most recently, the walk-out by Swan Theatre directors, it will be very interesting to see what the new Antony is like.



April 09, 2002
Listening to: "Duke Bluebeard's Castle" by Bela Bartok in the fantastic 1962 recording conducted by Antal Dorati, sung in Hungarian.



April 08, 2002
Eleven years ago today my partner (William) and I met one another. and to mark the occasion we drove to Oxford and had a meal at Brown's Restaurant. It was a quiet, intimate meal, and the food was good, so we felt very satisfied. Afterwards we took a night-time stroll around Oxford, and stopped in at a late-open bookshop with a particularly good selection of international magazines.

I feel very pround that W. and I have been together now for all this time. My mother gave us some financial help (help which she could ill afford) when we bought our home, but otherwise, like nearly all other gay couples and unlike nearly all married straight ones, we have had no support (real or emotional) from any source, including our families. I say this not out of resentment -- well, not principally out of resentment -- but to give us a pat on the back. We have taken the rough with the smooth and remained faithful to one another despite the complete absence of the institutional and family support that most couples take for granted.



April 07, 2002
Endless hand-wringing about Israeli military action gets me down. This post says it all about the current situation in my view:
    It's bad for people to kill themselves and each other. But. There seems to be no alternative to killing right now. There are Arabs who want nothing more than to kill Israelis. And no one will stop them, if Israel doesn't. Some people think a peace treaty could stop them. I don't. I don't see how. It would only stop the sane ones. So, there will be war. There is war. War is something that happens. It lasts until it costs more for one or both sides to continue than to submit. That is, the premise of war is that someone will suffer. So, they will suffer. What hope is there for it? You wish for a wand to wave — a solution without suffering? You are dreaming. This sounds defeatist. It isn't. There is hope, but it isn't that Israel or the Palestinians can avoid further suffering; it is that, at the end, there can be something else. This is the dream that matters. This is what Israel, and the world, must fight for. (Provenance Unknown)


Honey is in short supply in the UK. I for one am experiencing real difficulties getting my pots of heaven. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has found unacceptable drug residues in honey imports from China, the principal international source. It has called on retailers to withdraw all jars of Chinese and blended honey, and re-stock with unaffected supplies -- which means almost all the main brand-name and supermarket brand honey has been swept from the shelves. I managed to find the last two pots of (utterly delicious) Australian eucalyptus honey in Sainsbury's last week, but that has been it. My stocks are dwindling, and in early Spring there's no sight of any English honey. In any case, the UK produces only about 10% of its own honey needs. Still, we're not suffering like producers of delicious French sunflower honey, whose hives have been wiped out by the use of pesticides. beekeeping.com has information on honey all over the world.


The pictures of men by Alan Mercer (a photographer with a very wide range of subjects) are very accomplished --- and uncomplicated. The style is unequivocally wholesome. But it makes no attempt to subdue the erotic frisson of exploring the faces and bodies of these attractive, admirable men. What an enjoyable half hour one can spend meditating on the features of those which please one most (my favourites are Alex Scott and Draven Gonzalez). But aren't they all too elegantly posed? There's no probing beneath the smooth surfaces of subjects or settings. What kind of male identity do they create that we can identify with, rather than simply indulge our aesthetic or libidinous sensibilities?


Public trust is the subject of this year's Reith Lectures, which have just begun on BBC Radio 4.



April 06, 2002
The Canadaian Correctional Service ("Safety, Respect and Dignity for All") reports research about supposed connections between male "femininity" and sexual identity "problems", and conviction for fraud. A conceptual and methodological disaster area, the report includes this extraordinary speculation:
    One possible explanation is that the criminal act of the defrauder originates in an unresolved oedipal conflict... the fraudulent act would be one way for the defrauder to increase his self-esteem, a way of proving that he no longer fears castration.
Monetary gain isn't even mentioned. My initial reaction is to laugh -- ridiculous theories like these were common in the 1950s and 1960s. But why was this "research" proposed and funded now? Will gay people find it harder to get jobs in banks, and will their insurance claims be subject to special scrutiny? and will this be counterbalanced by the demand for their services from blue chip accountants like Andersen?


Listening to: Evgeny Kissin play Mussorgsky Pictures at an Exhibition, Bach/Busoni Toccata Adagio and Fugue in C on his new CD. The Mussorgsky is an incredibly forceful reading, almost overwhelming. As a performance it is second to none, but as an interpretation I'm not sure if it's not too weighty... something that's simply impossible with the Bach, the magnitude and sheer intellectual might of which Kissin coveys with absolute certainty. He turns the piano into an organ, sustained, monolithic. Every time I listen to it, by the middle I feel I am hearing music that ascends to another level of experience. Of course, Bach can do that to me in almost any circumstances, but Kissin is revelatory.





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