Harsh Reality

I am prompted by various articles that I have read recently to write the following about myself and the family from which I come. To set the scene, I am the eldest of five children — 3 boys (Ian, 24, David 27 and myself 31) and two girls (Maggy, 25 and Joan, 29). Our mother is ‘well connected’ (for what that’s worth), a JP, and sometime Conservative Councillor for a Sussex Borough. Our father, who was in the Diplomatic Corps, is dead and our step-father is a barrister and deeply religious (both great hang-ups I find). Three of us turned out to be gay — Ian, Maggy and myself. We had everything we could possibly wish for in life — large house, large garden, cars, servants, and a first class education. According to my mother’s press cuttings we were ‘gifted’ and ‘beautiful’ and won many local and national baby competitions — even doing a spot of child modelling for a well-known ladies’ journal. We all grew up to have blonde curly hair and in the case of my brothers and I, to be extremely hairy on our bodies which all the girls who came to our parents’ swimming parties raved over, as did our sisters and the boys at school.

Our sex life started with the usual comparisons when we were very young and home on holiday from school. Three or four of us were invariably left in England while mother accompanied father on his two or three year tours abroad – David and I at a well-known boys’ public school and my two sisters at a convent (which, I gather, was enough to turn anyone gay). We played the usual bedroom games at school, as did our sisters, and have all had sex with each other in one form or other – experimentally of course!

Ian was born in Brazil on one of my parents trips, and has been at school in Sweden for three years, which broadened his outlook on life considerably at the ripe old age of 9 through to 12, and then he went to a very elite academy in France while mother and father did a four year tour in Paris. At his request he stayed on until he was 18 and lives in Paris now with the son of an American politician who he has known for nearly two years. They are blissfully (there is no other word for it) happy and very much in love. They both have responsible jobs and are completely accepted in Paris ‘society’ – such as it is today.

Maggy, who always gave me the impression that she was weaned on a dildo, had a couple of affairs in the SW3 area before she went to live with the daughter of a Peer and a German female journalist in Heidelberg. All three of them are accepted in their towns as normal people. YET — and this is the real crunch for so many of us in England — NONE of us are now accepted in the stuffed shirt drawing rooms of our friends and relatives in Surrey and Sussex.

My brother David is making his way politically and financially in the City and though not married, has a ten-year-old son, resulting from an over indulgent evening he had at an end of term ball with a girl from our town. This is all forgotten by my mother and the girl concerned had an enormous wedding at St Margaret’s, with a reception for 500 people at a well-known hotel, and a seven-week honeymoon in America and the West Indies. My step-father is paying for the boy’s education – at a public school of course (to quote him “you learn a better way of life there”) and I doubt if the girl bothered to tell her MP (1970 vintage) husband.

My sister Joan is a Senior Stewardess with a foreign international airline and openly boasts that she sleeps with ‘homesick’ pilots on a sort of rota basis. Yet mother says nothing.

Why is it that David and Joan are regarded as so spotless in my mother’s eyes and yet her other children virtually do not exist any more to her and certainly to the rest of the family?

I have found in five years in University and nearly eight years in the medical profession that the majority of gay people – and I meet thousands every year – come from good middle or upper-class backgrounds. They are charming, well-spoken, intelligent young people who, to quote my father, “should have known better”. Or should they? Have they not chosen of their own free will the life they wish to live? Why harass them with archaic legislation and send them to psychiatrists and psychologists for ‘treatment’?

An effort should be made by papers such as yours to show that being gay is not a disease and that those of us who are gay are happy and have no desire to convert those who have chosen another course.

Tragically, the British way of life is such that if I were to use my real name (or those of my brothers and sisters) I would do a considerable amount of damage to the lives of many people, therefore I must be content to sign myself as I do, in the knowledge that those who do recognise the family concerned will understand, and those who do not will at least feel that the foregoing represents in some way or another their own personal family problem.

John

Ball And Chain

Recently, I spent a few days in London after a year’s absence. I am no newcomer to the London gay scene, after having spent seven years as an integral part of it. Yet, over the past year, the totally different way of life, lived in an almost totally different kind of environment, has seeped into me sufficiently for me to be able to look somewhat objectively at the way my gay friends in London live, whilst knowing the scene intimately from the inside.

The London gay scene can be an exciting, colourful world full of people who are either beautiful or interesting; you occasionally meet people who are both. I can remember such people, but fortunately, I only knew them for a few weeks. Being the pessimist I am, I do not intend to extol the wonders of London when there are so many things about it which are bad and prod one’s social conscience to comment upon them.

What I see in the gay scene, (that which I saw in myself over a year ago but fail to see in the majority of non-gay society) is the incessant preoccupation with sex and the constant orientation around gay being, or, we might alternatively say, being gay. It seems that there is a type of gay person whose entire existence revolves around their being gay, and that nothing matters or holds any interest for them other than the possibility of what they might get into bed with next. To me, this myopia is alarming, but to them, I guess, my university intellect is equally horrifying in its universalism and exposure to the overwhelming fullness of the world. Being gay in a gay world, or what sociologists innocently call subculture, is a comfortable security when the rest of society is painfully anti-gay. But when the entire extent of one’s life is limited to cruising and its obsessed mentality, then I think one begins to question the value of comfort and security. I should be able to understand the life of being gay, after all, I was leading it a year ago.

My transcendence into a new way of life was both planned and accidental. Now things are different, I have changed, and I look upon my old experiences almost as if I hadn’t had them. Why? Well, for one thing I have become involved in Gay Liberation since I moved out of London. However, although I have had a lot to do with GLF here, my views differ from those of the protagonists in London. The following, I hope, will illustrate this.

When I sent an article to the editors of Come Together for the special International Gay week edition, they published it but prefaced it with a pictorial comment – the article was called ‘Coming Out for Straight Gays’, and it attempted to analyse the problem of homosexuals sympathetic to the call for liberation, but confronted with some degree of interest in ‘straight’ society. I argued that liberation did not necessarily mean copying the radical feminists and wearing glittering clothes and eye-shadow, since few women do this anyway. Neither did it mean pinning oneself to a label. I reiterated the position I adopted at the GLF Birmingham conference, that with many gays like myself, Gay Lib was just one facet of something bigger and broader and that gay people shouldn’t enclose themselves in the specifically gay struggle for liberation, but should see the person as being part of a non-gay environment trying desperately to integrate with it without being swallowed up in it. Pandemonium ensued; at least from the Rad Fems and others whose brotherly love gave way to the most horrid bitterness of all. I rather suspect that the editors who prefaced my article with a picture of a ball and chain manacled to a boot were in the same frame of mind as those who castigated me at Birmingham. The point of contention was, in the last analysis, this: those that demand a change in one’s whole life in order to achieve liberation in their gay being are, I conject, those who are completely immersed in being gay and lead a totally gay existence. Those, like me who have a part to play in the non-gay world and are only gay in bed, can’t be doing with a total change in their whole lives.

Well, are my views such that they make me manacled to a ball and chain? Can I achieve liberation by attempting to integrate with straight society even though I don’t agree with it? My policy is ‘yes, integrate to liberate’. What we need to change is not only ourselves, and that on the inside, not on the eye-makeup side, but society as well. Read your manifestos you GLF people, and on page 7 it mentions a ‘revolutionary change in our whole society’. That includes us, but the change must be in our heads, deep inside our personalities in fact. The drag-fanatics have not quite found out what that means yet. If it is question time, then let’s also ask whether the liberationists are not also manacled to their own ball and chains, simply because they never concern themselves with the outside world and all its other oppressions.

Like the scene people, the professional liberationists are, to my perspective, over-involved in being gay. This distorts their understanding of how society oppresses them and what they have to do to liberate themselves from its oppression.Their rejection of the straight world (without being part of it) makes them suspicious and critical of me when I purport to move between gay and straight ways of life with an easy conscience. I can appreciate that gay being means security, as much as I understand that one does not want to be integrated with a sick society, one that gives males privilege and dominance over women, children and gays; but I do not drop-out of the straight world altogether, simply because you have got to fight it from within – and because one does not want to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

There are some good points about straight society but the liberationists seem to deny this.

In my Come Together article, I admitted to having a vested interest in the world which oppresses me – that was simply a paradoxical way of saying that so long as I remain straight in the street and gay in bed I can be left alone to lead a quiet comfortable life and suffer the oppression of being taunted behind my back and denied any equality with other people. That is precisely where the straight-gays and the closet-queens stand; it is the difficult, disheartening position of those who want to be or must be involved in straight society, and who don’t go to gay pubs and don’t cruise physically or mentally. So, when liberation and coming out are suggested one gets into a very difficult position. What are we to liberate ourselves from and into? If it’s the answer given by the present generation of London GLF, then I for one am quite content to stay oppressed, London libers have been trying for two years or more to find out what democracy is all about and they still have not succeeded; they have dismissed bureaucracy because it is part of the straight world and have blocked their ability to organise as a result. Hence there has been little liberation in London, although there has been a lot of jiggery-pokery with social values, and a lot of political gymnastics which have done more harm than good.

No, I don’t feel that I am manacled to a ball and chain; quite the opposite. It is not so much the ball and chain being on the other foot as the foot which has it being on the other leg, ie my critics. The only way to get at straight society is to compromise with it, and accept what you know to be good and reject what you know to be bad. There is, after all, a lot about being gay which is bad; and being gay at the expense of everything else is just such a thing.

I’m Tired of Being Gay

05-197208xx-5I’ve been gay (well actually bisexual with a strong homosexual bias) for as long as I can remember, and I’m completely adjusted to it. All my friends know, and accept me for what I am: even my parents accept me.

I’m tired of what being gay implies. To me, what it should imply is simply being myself, and preferring relationships with my own sex over those with the opposite sex. But what it actually does imply to all but a very few of the other gay people I know is being totally artificial and shallow, wearing smooth trendy clothes and expensive immaculate hairstyles, cutting oneself off from the straight world and isolating oneself in sordid clubs and pubs, picking up similar people for use-once-then-throw-away sex. It’s just not me.

I’m a great believer in human relationships and personal honesty within them: such relationships I could never have with any of the gay people know. On the other hand, all my relationships with my straight friends – of both sexes – are so much more meaningful that I’m sorely tempted to give up being gay and try being “straight”. If I were to repress my homosexuality in favour of heterosexuality it would not be because of oppression by the straight world but by the gay world. The only alternative would be to tread the downhill path into dishonesty, and become an institutionalised queen. I have seen one once-liberated guy do this, and now another – my ex-affair – is on the way down. It makes me despair. It makes me so sad that I’m tired of being gay.