1973: AN ENCOURAGEMENT TO NEW YEAR RESOLUTIONS – OR HOW TO BE HAPPY THOUGH GAY

I’m writing this near the end of one year; you’ll read it, of course (if Gay News prints it) soon after the start of another. In ’72, especially in recent months, I’ve known a happiness deeper than I’ve ever known before: much deeper and richer than, in the years when I was a hidden, isolated homosexual. I’d imagined as possible. ‘Imagined’ is the word: I elaborated fantasies and daydreams about a happy state of life which I wanted to exist for lonely me: but they were ignorant as I didn’t, by definition, know the reality. The main reason why I feel so thrilled to have broken with my former wav of life is the actual discovery-by-experiencing of the richness which homosexual love can bring. I hadn’t known it could be this good.

To destroy a way of life is justified if the destroyer means to, and can, build another which is better. I wasn’t sure I could be that constructive, and often had cold feet in the early stages. The construction now achieved (though as it’s living, it isn’t static or fixed) is therefore surprisingly good — and is due more to several much-loved friends than it is to me. (Must get that in, as I don’t want to sound too self-congratulatory!) Although ’72 has been the peak of life so far, I’m hoping that ’73 will even outdo (outsoar?) it.

You’re probably wondering what the hell I’m going on about – so some personal details may make sense of what I’ve just written. First, though, I realise that this reflective contribution may sound very self-centred. I’ll try to justify it by saying that it’s written in a spirit of encouragement/concern/love for the readers of Gay News, to show that happiness is within our reach. (Some of you, I realise, have overcome or are facing difficulties beside which those I’ve got rid of must seem very petty.) It would be nice to think that the majority of homosexuals, even the majority of Gay News readers, are perfectly used to being happy-to-be-gay; but surely that’s very doubtful. We’re in a society which still, very largely, thinks that homosexuals live a life which is squalid, disgusting, furtive, sad – and so on. Of course, most books and plays about homosexuals still see us like this – as men and women to be pitied when not condemned, receiving at the best the ‘compassion’ of ‘enlightened’ straights.

I’ve found all that, in my own life, to be a lot of rubbish; my own positive, pulsing happiness, for which I’m so grateful, seems pretty exceptional when I look around at straight life. So if you’re feeling sad, bewildered, hesitant, resolve to be happy this year: it can be done.

Now the personal details, with apologies – but nobody can be someone else; we must each speak for ourselves.

For years I tried, for long stretches, largely successfully, at least as far as the surface of life went, to ignore my homosexuality. I was a schoolteacher in Cornwall, and tried to direct my love, with painfully inadequate, though not contemptible results, into my work which I did moderately well. I tried in short to be a loving person. Not surprisingly, this proved an unsatisfactory way to give, and an even more unsatisfactory way to receive, love. I showed a concern for the pupils (especially for the diffident; those who struggled to gain an exam pass which mattered to their future), but came to realise clearly that all this conscientiousness, this patience, simply amounted to an attempt to love abstractions. In trying to meet the inescapable human need to love and be loved, I was living in a vacuum and not even coping with the secondary relationships of life which a person sexually at ease can quite readily deal with. I needed to love real, live people; as a male homosexual, I needed other men’s bodies – not ideals of service to the community (which I can now serve better because I’m happy and outward-looking, not shrivelled up inside.)

So, feeling rather weak and unsure, I threw up this respectable/secure job and came to London to meet other homosexuals – at the start not knowing where they could be found, except in the cottages at Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square, and in the Salisbury. I’d like to say I was brave enough to come out in Cornwall (though my friends there know now) and nonetheless refused to give up my job, but at that time I wasn’t able to feel like that; in fact, I felt desperate, still duped into thinking of my homosexuality as a burden. Whatever else this article is, it isn’t boastful; I’ve felt embarrassed – and miserable. I lived on the edge of a breakdown and would have fallen over if I hadn’t had enough self-knowledge to realise that I wasn’t in the least wicked/evil because I was gay.

I was interested to read Jim Scott in GN 12 attacking what he sees as the GLF ethos of dispensing “love … equally and indiscriminately to all men and women of all ages everywhere”, a wish “to spiritualise physical sex out of existence and refuse to acknowledge its less ideal aspects”. I see what he means and don’t want to take issue with him; indeed, what I most needed to put me right was another man in my bed. But I can only say that I am able to dispense this pervading and pervasive love now: that it too is a reality for me. I’ve never been to bed with some of my dearest friends, probably never will go – and, honestly, don’t particularly want to. But my love for them isn’t any less satisfying. (We do give each other a hug and a kiss!) I must say too that my present happiness has come about because of my involvement with GLF and CHE (I went to GLF first). There’s so much to love and be thankful for in them both, and I only wish that more homosexuals would support them both. I was getting desperate, before I went to GLF, from standing in the Coleherne, appraising and being appraised, a calculating business on both sides, trying to go down to the he in sips – and, brother, did I once go down! (Still, that was months and months ago; least said, soonest mended.)

You may be thinking, bloody fool; probably are, if you met your great love in the Coleherne. But this is just my point: I’m not saying you ought, or need to, live exactly as I do and hold my exact views if you’re going to be happy. Of course some gays find their height of happiness in the Coleherne; probably some find it by loitering in cottages – though that, I must feel, isn’t usually a happy life. All I want to say is that I’ve found happiness in the way I’ve described. Unless I continue as I live now – being pleased for others to know I’m gay ; at least trying to spread love, to be peaceful and (without apologies for the word) a good person – I couldn’t continue happy.

To express myself as a homosexual means to express myself as a person, and I wouldn’t be a person if I hid away as I used to; what goodness I have derives from my gayness. ’72 is the first year in which I’ve been a person.

So really “How to be Happy …” isn’t quite the right title; I’m not so arrogant as to presume to dictate a course for your life. But if you are “sad, bewildered, hesitant”, then I can recommend, and say that I honestly believe to be happy is possible to you, in your particular circumstances. If you aren’t already, do be unashamed, proud and glad this year; do consider supporting GLF and CHE; do try to dispense love “equally and indiscriminately”. Above all, determined to be happy.

With love to everybody; special love to the GN Editorial Collective for bearing with all this — not forgetting Julian who writes such lovely reviews. Why do people slate you, Julian? I love you ducky. Let’s have a “be-kind-to-Julian” year. That’s one way of spreading love – yes, seriously.

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