Two by Two?

5 02 2013

By the time you read this, the Marriage (Same Sex) Couples Act may have passed it’s second reading in the House of Commons. This act will allow same-sex couples the same civil marriage rights as heterosexual couples. Well, in theory. Barring the Church of England, (the national church) and any priest or clergyman who gets their knickers in a twist about Adam and Steve. Certainly this is a massive step towards full equality for gay people and for that must be applauded. But it does leave me wondering if our society is too hung up on pairing up.

Ever since we were told the tale of Noah’s Ark, our society reinforces the notion that humans, like Noah’s llamas, should come in two-by-two. Every nursery rhyme and fairy tale tells us that boys should be strong and fight dragons to win the hearts of fair princesses in gilded towers with pumpkin slippers. OK, I’m getting my tales in a tangle but you get the idea.

As we grow up, the pressure get’s even worse. Who hasn’t been at a friend’s for dinner, or on a night out, and felt that terrible third-wheel sensation rolling in when you realise that everyone else has hooked up (either with Mr. Right or Mr. Right Now) and you are left all alone in the world. Unfortunately, the longer people are in a relationship, it seems the worse the sense of smug superiority gets.

For example, I was recently told by a straight-and-married friend how wonderful it was that I’d found someone at last. Nine months into any relationship, that seems a bit presumptuous to be honest. Secondly, I’m twenty-five and don’t think having another human being who is willing to share my life (Doctor Who obsession included) and sex life (Doctor Who obsession not included) with me makes me any more complete or happy as an individual.

There will doubtless be people reading this who believe I must be some sort of bitter, twisted incomplete human being without-a-soul, but hear me out. Certainly, I am not for a moment saying I dislike sharing my life with my boyfriend. What I am saying is that barring random quirks of fate and other serious accidents, I believe everyone has the capacity to be genuinely happy with and as themselves.

It simply does not enter my head that just not having a partner/significant other makes you somehow incomplete as a human being.  To my mind, this view misses the massive diversity of emotional and sexual lifestyles that we, as human beings, have come up with. It also fundamentally limits your own aspirations and happiness if you are constantly convinced that you can only be happy when Monsieur or Madame Right waltzes into your life with an armful of roses and one of Cupid’s arrows between their teeth, ready to take you away to mythical place known only as True Love.

So, this Valentine’s Day, whether you are with good lovers or good friends or neither, remember this: at the end of the day, the person who has the most control over how happy you are is you.



Dividing the Camp

28 04 2012


What makes someone “gay”? Is it the clothes he wears, the pitch of his voice, his interest (or otherwise) in fashion or celebrity culture, the amount of time he spends doing his hair in the morning, or just the fact that, broadly speaking, he is sexually attracted to other men?

Certainly, if you are casting a gay character in any one of televisions’ popular soaps and dramas, it is highly likely that the first four criteria will be as significant as the ability of the actor concerned to depict the final one. In real life, it is somewhat more murky. For a start, there are no casting agents in real life: just other people getting on with their lives. And this is where problems can arise because, quite simply, a number of members of the gay community have very strident views on how “gay” we should all be behaving.

There is a well-worn argument that the so-called “straight-acting” gay man has it easy, since he is less likely to be picked out as a target for homophobia. But let’s unpick that a bit: on an etymological level, the notion that we should aspire to appear “straight” is simultaneously attractive and revolting. Sure, not everyone wants – or should feel obliged to – live their lives as a one-man pride parade. Equally, it remains fundamentally unclear how such activities as watching a football match, working on a construction site, having a deep voice and not giving two shits for fashion or celebrity culture impact on ones’ sexuality.

The opposite it undoubtedly also the case: gay men who do not fit traditional stereotypes can feel as alienated from the mainstream gay scene as they can from their heterosexual friends and colleagues. Aspects of mainstream gay culture promote idealised images of being a gay man that, lets face it, none of us are ever going to achieve.

Another persistent argument goes the other way: that by conforming to certain stereotypical expectations of “gay”, camp or more effeminate gay men have it easy: they happily go out gay-clubbing in a clique of other gays, watch Sex in the City, drink gay-cocktails and live gayly ever after in a gay cloud of fairy glitter. I’ll let you choose for yourself which of these ridiculous myths you want to bust first.

The simple fact is that there is no easy way to be gay, even in modern Western society. Despite massive strides forward toward equality, terms such as “gay”, “poof” and “queer” are still found everywhere from the school playground to the works canteen. Simply put, the fight for gay rights has been so successful because we have stood together in all of our quirky, individual uniqueness.

For this fight to continue, for our equal rights to be protected and improved, we quite simply cannot afford to fight amongst ourselves. Being identified as “gay”, whether in society at large or within the community, should never be about what you look like, what your hobbies are, the tone or pitch or your voice.

Onlining Them Up #6: BoyAhoy

9 01 2012

URL: BoyAhoy
Date Signed Up: Dec 2011
No. of Conversations Had: 3
No. of Dates Achieved: 0

Imagine how shit Grindr would be if it didn’t just show you nearby homosexuals but picked a random selection from across the world? Well, that’s BoyAhoy. Quite possibly the most pointless dating/hook-up app ever invented.
Overall Score: 0/10why, really, just why?!

Onlining Them Up #5: Grindr

8 01 2012

URL: [app available for iPhone, Android and Blackberry]
Date Signed Up: Sept 2011
No. of Conversations Had: approx. 20
No. of Dates Achieved: 3

Probably the most famous (only?) homosexual locating app of recent years, Grindr has a reputation for being a bit sleazy. But, as a mobile app it’s perhaps in a different league to some of the other sites in previous posts – it is about connecting with nearby homosexuals (for whatever purpose). Certainly as (frankly brilliant) blogs like Groandr demonstrate, Grindr has quickly become the perfect repository for every bizarre, baffling and otherwise hilarious aspect of gayness. That said, it’s kind of unsurprising that all of the new people I’ve met have been via this app. It is perhaps a surprise that none of these encounters have been of a NSA kind. The immediacy of the chat function and the sparse (a few sentences) profile space encourages interaction far more than completing a personality test or completing a complex series of interview questions. Perhaps I’m old-fashioned, but that stuff can wait till you’re actually talking to a real person* (or after you’ve casually bummed each other, your choice). That said, if you don’t consider conversational openers such as “sex now?”, and “wanna fuk my boyf” classy or appropriate, you might want to stay away from about 30% of Grindr chats, or just use the oh-so-helpful block facility. (And FYI, these conversations aren’t included in the totals at the top.)
Overall Score: 7/10so long as you don’t mind the occasional unsolicited penis.

* First time anyone (ever) has claimed Grindr is old-fashioned. Fact.

Onlining Them Up #4:

7 01 2012

Date Signed Up: June 2011
No. of Conversations Had: 30+
No. Of Dates Achieved: 0

This is an interesting one. It appears to be marketed at a particular demographic, yet is by far the most diverse and inclusive dating site I’ve come across. That said, the layout and structure is confusing to start with, and the site makes you believethat you have to pay to access messaging (boo hiss!), simply friend-requesting yourself seems to unlock this functionality. The profile set-up is simple, and you can conceal private photos from casual viewing should you want to. However, none of the members I’ve interacted with seem to have used this facility. The profile questions are a bit prescriptive, but dare I say it, this simple approach perhaps works better than the more complex set-ups found on some other sites. I’ve made some good friends online here, and though none of these ever translated into real life meetings, it’s a really good (and unexpected bonus) of signing up to dating sites!
Overall Score: 9/10 –  simple and effective, and fun too. What more can you ask for?

Onlining Them Up #3:

6 01 2012

Date Signed Up: April 2011
No. of Conversations Had: 10
No. of Dates Achieved: 0 (still…)

This is a dating site that really works for you, if “by really works for you” you mean spams your inbox on a weekly or daily basis with suggestions of men for you to message. They also ran a “12 Atheist Days of Christmas Matches” in which a new atheist fizzog popped up in my mailbox. This is a nice gimmick, but overall the site feels very gimmick heavy. The idea that you make your own questions, add them to a pool, then answer with the answers you like or would like a partner to say is all very well on paper (and to be fair, it does seem to produce accurate matches), but the psychology of it is interesting. Until I joined, I never thought I would hesitate in messaging someone because they had told an internet interrogator that the Earth was bigger than the Sun. You end up answering so many questions that the end-result of the exercise (dates etc) is kind of obscured.
That said, the profile questions are very helpful and allow a certain amount of self-expression (for boxes of internet). Though it appears to be compulsory to begin your profile with “I’m really really bad at filling out internet dating profiles”! The interface is intuitive and easy to navigate and ads, though present, don’t get in the way of the functionality of the site. It’s a good side, and unlike other sites mentioned in previous posts, the friendly interface and fun aspect of the questions did encourage repeat visits and sparked a number of fun conversations.
Overall Score: 6/10 You can learn everything about someone and never even have to speak to them…

Was Shakespeare a Bummer?

6 01 2012

In the week that’s seen a very important debate on euthanasia, as well as the Iowa primaries and Dianne Abbott race-gate, it’s not been a high profile week for pushing the Gay Agenda in the news, so Gandalf (sorry, Sir Ian McKellan) told Pink News that there was “no doubt” that William Shakespeare was a massive flamer.
It scarcely matters to me – or, in theory anyway, any right thinking Literature student – who the Bard boned, but really? It must be a slow day on Planet Gay for this to be making headlines. Even if you discount the news value of Sir Ian saying it, he’s hardly the first.
The evidence is, basically, that Shakespeare played around with gender in numerous plays, including my personal favourite, Twelfth Night. Then again, this is hardly unusual in Renaissance literature. Similarly, his sonnets are interrogated for their apparent homosexual desire. However, as the noted literary critic Douglas Bush points out, ‘modern readers are unused to [the] ardor in masculine friendship’ and so ‘leap at the notion of homosexuality’, regardless of the explicitly heterosexual content of the sonnets.
McKellan highlights the homosocial relationship between Bassiano and Antonio in The Merchant of Venice as showing that the play ‘centres on how the world treats gays as well as Jews’. Whilst the play does engage with contrasting bonds of business and friendship, McKellan is over-stating the case. For a start, the relationship between the two characters is nothing beyond the conventions of male friendship current at the time (for a scholarly account, I recommend noted gay historian, Alan Bray’s 2003 book, The Friend).
This is the crux of the issue. It makes no sense to point at a historical figure and call them out for homosexuality. The meaning of the term “gay” has shifted so much over the last 100 years so can scarcely be applied to Shakespeare. More seriously, it is both deeply patronising and deeply anachronistic to attach modern identities to historical individuals.