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.

Editorial

It’s an undisputable fact that the loneliest people are those who belong to minority groups — blacks in a predominantly white area, old people in a predominantly young community or gays in a predominantly “straight” society.

It’s equally true that the isolation that makes members of minority groups feel lonely – often to the point of suicide, in the extremest of cases – is made even more telling at times of general festivities and group happiness happenings, from which they feel excluded.

Christmas is just such a time. It’s a time when the conventional image of Christmas means that families close their doors and, with few exceptions, friends are forgotten temporarily. It’s a time when all of us in minority groups are going to feel left out. Possibly because we haven’t got a wife and two kids to rush back to, possibly because we haven’t got the skin colour that’s part of the commercial image of Christmas.

White Christmas

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with Christmas, and this isn’t yet another piece attacking the increasing commercialism of the festival – or its increasing religious importance – because it was, after all, a pagan festival before Christianity was ever thought about.

The image the festival enjoys as purveyed by the media in both editorial and advertising space has become a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant Christmas for the family unit with income big enough to buy the trappings.

It leaves out gays, blacks, the old and the unemployed. The over-cheerful, satiated Christmas projected by all the media is one that, by definition, cuts out minorities. It makes the minorities feel their minority-ness even more sharply than ever. It makes some desperately lonely.

We hope that you won’t feel lonely and we’d ask you to do one thing. Christmas could be a time for gays to show what a minority can do. What gays should do this Christmas is to try and spread a little happiness to our brothers and sisters not just in the gay world, but in all minority groups.

Don’t be self-conscious. Spread a little love.

The Ersatz Image

At the risk of sounding like a sermon, it’s worth looking at what the family fireside Christmas in the semi-detached that’s still heavily mortgaged is really about. This media image of Christmas is a mistaken ersatz impression of love.

Love is what the office parties are aping. There are four cardinal virtues: Faith, Hope, Charity and Love. And the greatest of these is Love.

It’s love that all the minorities will be feeling the lack of at Christmas. So in practical terms you can spread a little love by taking that old lady who lives in your block to the cinema, or perhaps the pub. You can invite people in for a meal or even to watch television.

New Weapon For Gays

Gays are used to being a minority. This Christmas is an excellent opportunity for us to spread a little love, a little happiness to reach out and make someone else’s Christmas special.

We are the best-equipped, through our experience as a minority group, to take practical action without self-interest and really communicate with others. Not just gays, but anyone who isn’t finding Christmas too happy a time.

This form of individual action without self-interest could prove to be a new and extremely powerful weapon for gays to fight prejudice.

Love on Demand

You Can’t have Love to Order at the Dilly

Dear People,

I want to thank Gay News and everyone who supports it for giving gay people everywher19721001-07e the chance to discover themselves through its pages. Here gay ideas and experience can meet and be explored so that we can all examine our prejudices and myths and perhaps for the first time realise who we are. For being gay is not GLF or CHE, it is people, all people being aware of the reality of each other.

I enclose an answer to the article ‘The Piccadilly Affair which I hope you print. It won’t please a lot of people, but that is what discovering oneself is really about. We have to live together side by side and try to love and understand that which we don’t always like or want to see. We are the bars of our own cage.

I’ve been a hustler in the past, and can give several reasons for being one.

  1. As a penniless artist it was a way of eating;
  2. I was exploring my own feelings or hang-ups about prostitution;
  3. I was meeting the needs of certain people;
  4. It was more honest than most gay one-night sex games, played in the name of love.

None of these reasons appear to make me any the less human or qualify me for the heartbreaker of the year award.

I cannot defend the Australian boy for not making the position clear — that, I feel, was dishonest. (The Piccadilly Affair – GN5).

But I do not defend him over the broken heart. For in a business deal of this sort no-one is talking about love. The product is sex and maybe the satisfaction of someone else’s unusual desires; ie sado-masochistic fantasies. (How many gays have been sickened to find that their man for the night was ‘kinky’ or vice-versa?)

You say you love him: question what you love. Do you have any idea of him as a real person? Please be honest with youself. Love is more than a body and a voice. Did you express your true feelings to him? Why ‘be daft’ and give him £5 when there was no pressure? Perhaps you should have shown him the poem instead and tried to discover the real person you had just had sexual contact with.

I have been hired by many people and few have wanted to discover me as a person, though one did and we developed a real friendship outside of any business relationship, which was rewarding for us both.

I have no guilt over my hustling days, but I have experienced guilt, dishonesty and pain in non-commercial gay relationships from people who claimed to love. Love for me is the whole person, not separate parts, it’s a truth between people, a beauty that does not wither with age.

One of my fellow hustlers met his friend and lover through a client and they have been together ever since, and that was eleven years ago. So please try to see rent boys as having hearts and that they too can fall in love, but not to order.