2032. A Gay Odyssey

Illustrations by Jean-Claude Thevenin
Illustrations by Jean-Claude Thevenin
Jack Mitchell became a State Registered Homosexual (Societal Adjustment Rating 7.9) on his eighteenth birthday, 4th July 2032. It was a simple ceremony, but he was glad when it was all over, his psychiatric reports and birth certificate checked and his SRH card stamped and issued. He took his pledge willingly and seriously, and was soon embracing his parents and younger sister-in the words of the pledge, “a fully recognized homosexual citizen, mindful of his social responsibility and state recognition”.

Life after that passed in a haze. In his large provincial home town, there were two state recognized gay bars and one club, and also the numerous privately organised SRH parties, given by loving parents in the hope of finding their son a nice young man to settle down with. It was at one of these, only six months later, that he met Andrew Roberts, a 22 year old university graduate.

They fell in love.

Jack’s parents took to Andrew as a second son, and were soon talking in terms of the engagement party. Jack and Andrew were at the stage of walking silently for miles, hand in hand. They let Jack’s parents get on with it. Andrew’s widowed mother lived several hundred miles away, and the news of the engagement was videophoned to her. It made her very happy.

The engagement party was a great success. All their friends, heterosexual and SRH, agreed that they were well suited. Between them they earned enough for a mortgage on a decent suburban house. Jack didn’t want to move away from his home town. Andrew, eventually, acquiesced.

They first had sex two months before the date set for their wedding. Jack was aware that this contravened his SRH pledge, but felt unable to hold out on Andrew any longer. They fell into a routine of fucking (or sucking) every weekend in Andrew’s car, safely parked miles from the nearest village. Jack knew he would be pleased when the marriage ceremony was over and all the guilt and secrecy disappeared.

It was after such an occasion that they drove into a village and stopped at a pub for a drink. The landlord recognised Andrew, who had been the boyfriend, briefly, of the landlord’s son, now happily married. He greeted them heartily.

“Have a drink on me boys” He winked at them broadly, “Heard about the engagement, couldn’t have happened to two nicer people.” He drew a couple of pints, and carried on talking, this time to Jack.

“You’ve caught yourself a fine husband here,” he continued jovially, “Used to be my Simon’s boyfriend, before he married Tim of course. I knew then he’d make someone a fine spouse.”

They finally escaped into a corner with their drinks. Andrew looked pale and untalkative. Jack placed a hand on his.

“Hey, Andy, is anything wrong?” he asked gently. Andrew smiled back, his hand responding to Jack’s touch.

“Not really Darling, I’m just getting doubts about things…”

“About us?” Jack interrupted. He looked anxious. Andrew realized how vulnerable he was.

“No, not about us. I love you as much as ever.”

Jack leaned over and they kissed lingeringly. A middle-aged heterosexual couple sharing the bar nodded and smiled benevolently.

Andrew whispered to Jack, “It’s just… I can’t explain, but I feel I must at least try.”

“Then try!”

“Before we get married we ought to talk these things over. I do love you and I do want to live with you, but sometimes I ask myself questions. Questions I am only just beginning to answer. I don’t like the answers.”

“What questions?” Jack’s tone was now earnest and abrupt.

“Well, for example – why should we have to get married? Why can’t we just live together like some straight couples do?”

Jack looked horrified. “Oh my God, Andy, you know why! Because we’re homosexual and we have a moral duty to the rest of society When you get registered you sign a pledge…”

“Yes!” Andrew’s voice was louder now, “Have you read that pledge? Do you know what it says? It binds you to a commitment to uphold the laws of this country, to join no political homosexual organisation, should one ever exist, it urges you not to have promiscuous sexual encounters. What else? Oh yes, it contains a clause saying that you are willing to undergo conversion to heterosexuality should a reliable method be discovered.”

There was silence. Jack was bewildered, and seemed to be thinking furiously.

“Of course I know all that. There’s good reason for every one of those things. Promiscuity used to be common among homosexuals once, we have to keep up standards for the rest of society to accept us.”

“On their terms!”

“Not really. That’s not all the pledge states. It talks about total legal and social equality for homosexuals and the eradication of prejudice. What about the State Registered Homosexual Discrimination Board? It took decades to achieve state recognition for us. The old Campaign for Homosexual Equality did it, and the Royal Federation of Homophile Organisations. Was Antony Grey knighted for nothing?”

Jack’s face was flushed, his eyes bright. Andrew put an arm around his shoulder and said gently, “Love – those days are over two decades ago. CHE and RFHO dissolved themselves on the passing of the State Registration Act 2009. They had to, it was part of the deal. Even the Gay Liberation Front had collapsed by 2013. That’s history. But I can tell you this: not everyone in CHE wanted state recognition. Some of their radicals objected strongly but were shouted down by the grass-roots members.”

Jack looked horrified. “How do you know that! You realise all CHE Bulletins are classified inaccessible information, don’t you. That’s a criminal offence.”

“Ssssh darling. I needed the answers, and I found them. But listen to me. I’ve not finished. What about those who don’t make registration, those with S.A.R. less than 4.6? The freaks, the queens, the dykes. – I know I’m using archaic terminology but you understand. There are over 2 million state recognised homosexuals in this country. Who knows how many don’t make it? The figures are never issued. To achieve recognition you must have two independent psychiatrists testify to your adjustment, and must be a productive and respectable citizen. And the bisexuals get a really rough deal.”

Jack’s eyebrows shot up, but Andrew continued – “Yes! They do exist, but they’re too shit-scared to admit it. Anyone who doesn’t make registration is in constant danger of being hounded, harassed, and arrested at the least excuse. The state registered gay scene is closed to them. None of the legal rights of an SRH apply to them. They’re treated as less than human by the police.”

“Come off it!” Jack retorted. “This isn’t the twentieth century!”

“I know, but it does go on!”

“I don’t believe you!”

Deadlock. Silence. Suddenly Andrew stood up-and grabbed Jack’s arm. “Get your coat and come with me.”

Shaken, Jack followed. They drove for miles in silence. Finally they parked in a dark street in one of the slum areas of the town. Dark tenaments and deserted houses stood crumbling about them.

Jack followed Andrew grimly down some steps. Andrew rang a bell, spoke to the man who answered and they soon walked into a smokey hot room.

“A homosexual bar,” said Andrew, “Non-registered variety.”

Jack felt anguished. As they walked towards the bar, he could in the darkness make out people’s faces. Many of the men were grotesque or effeminate, some wore drag. The place was crowded, a juke box was playing loudly. A man called to Andrew – who acknowledged him briefly. It was a terrifying experience for Jack, a well brought up, middle-class, state registered homosexual boy. He silently sat next to Andrew amongst a group of people. The men here were not really effeminate, but certainly looked different. He was amazed to see women in the same bar. Apparently, this group were state registered dropouts, who had either voluntarily given up or had taken away, their SRH status. He listened to some stories of police entrapment and brutalization, landlord discrimination, and societal prejudice. He took it all in for forty five minutes. After that he suddenly said to Andrew,

“I want to go home.”

Something in Jack’s voice made Andrew turn. He felt suddenly overcome with regret.

They drove to Jack’s home in silence. Andrew turned out the car engine. Jack sat stiffly for a few seconds and then began to sob. He fell into Andrew’s arms, whilst Andrew tried to comfort him.

“I’m sorry my love, I’m really sorry. I know you feel shocked, but you had to know.”

“I don’t want to know,” Jack lifted his face, “I’m frightened. What does it mean? Those people… those revolting people.”

Andrew’s face stiffened. “Those people, Jack, are homosexual, like you and me. They’re not state registered, but they’re still our brothers and sisters. It’s all right if you’re a ‘normal’ homosexual, but individual differences aren’t tolerated. That isn’t freedom. I’ve never been allowed to forget that society’s doing me a favour. I’m an equal citizen, but only after I’ve been castrated and can grovel low enough. Do you call that freedom?”

Jack pulled away and stared blankly at Andrew.

“Of course you feel frightened, the brainwashing has taken a knock, but you’ll come out of it.”

“No,” Jack shook his head. “No, I don’t want anything to do with it. You’re mad. You’ll lose your registration like this. Oh, we were going to be so happy!”

He again broke down and covered his face with his hands. Andrew said nothing, but sat silently. Jack continued, “You’ll be telling me next you’re a member of some organisation or other.”

Andrew laughed bitterly, “Jack, don’t you see – there isn’t an organisation. Everyone has been thrown off the track. The whole thing is a fiasco. But we could build one…”

“Stop it!” Jack shook Andrew’s shoulders, “I won’t listen to you. I can’t listen to you!”

With that he left the car and ran into the house.

Two days passed. Jack refused to talk to anyone. Then Andrew’s letter arrived. Jack’s mother went into his room to find her son hysterical. She read the letter and rang the doctor. While he came, she tried to soothe him.

“Oh my poor baby, calm down. It’s all right, he was the wrong one for you. You’ll feel better without him, you’ll feel better soon.”

After the sedatives wore off Jack fell into a deep depression. He would talk to non-one, go nowhere, and hardly ate. His ramblings were incoherent. In desperation his parents called the doctor, and Jack was admitted to the local psychiatric unit.

Three weeks later, sitting up in bed. feeling dazed. Jack was only dimly aware of the letter he held in his hands.

“Dear sir, It has come to our notice that you have been admitted as a psychiatric patient to the Wilmott Clinic. We regret to inform you that we are forced to rescind your status as a State Registered Homosexual forthwith.”

Silently weeping. Jack crumpled the letter. It fell to the floor.