Friday, 27 July 2007

FAGGED OUT

As the media is busily noting, 40 years ago, today, homosexuality was finally decriminalised - although then only in England and Wales and for men over the age of 21 and in private. Gayness may have no longer been a crime but it was something to be strictly kept behind closed doors - in fact, in the closet.

At the time I had just turned 18 and was still fighting down the belief/fear that I was gay. Even when, three years later, I was legally old enough to indulge in same-sex activities (and by which time I had escaped the straight-jacket of a heterosexual relationship that was hurtling towards marriage and, probably, subsequent disaster) gay men were still subject to victimisation, prejudice, violence, blackmail, harassment and public ignominy.

Although I read nowadays that some men who lived the gay life in those dark, depressing days, claim to yearn for the lost thrills of plucking forbidden fruit, I for one have no fond memories of such times...

For me, any excitement and adrenaline rush resulting from dangerous liaisons was always outranked by those fumbled, furtive, seedy encounters that did little more than relieve the animal urge while, at the same time, reinforcing the stigmatised belief that my sexual orientation was unnatural, shameful and dirty.

I look back on nights of crying myself to sleep, of praying for a miracle and, even - being, at that time, a devout Christian - seeking "healing"...

I painfully recall being mugged and robbed, blackmailed and, on one occasion, humiliated in court by a magistrate who said that he hoped the £25 fine he handed down to me (a lot of money thirty-five years ago) would serve as a lesson both to me and to "other detestables of your sort". I still shudder as I remember the days of waiting to see if my criminal activity would be reported in the local newspaper and I would lose my job, disgrace my parents, alienate my friends...

The worst effect of living in the shadows was that it took me a long time to discover the joys and pleasures of gay love as opposed to the temporary thrill and gratification of gay sex.

I am not sure it will ever be truly easy to be gay - however glad we may say we are about it! It is, after all, rather like the salmon swimming upstream against the flow of the river; but I thank God (despite the fact that His Church is the final - and eternal - bastion of homophobia) that today's generation of gay men and women are able to live and love in what, compared with How Things Were 40 years ago, is an Enlightened Age...

11 comments:

Boll Weavil said...

As a straight man, I too am glad for the gradual dawning of a more tolerant age because it means that several people very close to me can have a chance at happiness that would otherwise have been denied to them.I have always believed that with so many restrictions and divisions placed on us in life, we should not seek to arbitarily invent more.The only time we can be sure of being really free in our thinking, sexual orientation and religious beliefs is when we can guarantee the freedom of everybody else.

Suzanne said...

Unfortunately, the world being as it is, laws can be passed against discrimination of all kinds until we're blue in the face. But they'll never be able to legislate against bigotry and stupidity!
As a straight, single female, I often find it a shame to find out some guy is gay - it seems such a waste of a generally really nice guy!

Brian Sibley said...

BOLL - True and well said...

SUZANNE - That view has been expressed to me (in my younger days!) several times...

But "a waste" in what sense? For femalekind? For the future of the necessarily procreated human race?

Is it any more of a "waste" that a young man in a relationship with an older woman, or vice versa? Any more of a "waste" than a person of one skin colour in a relationship with someone of another hue? All those have been (or still are) disapproved of or even banned somewhere in the world in our lifetime.

True tolerance, surely, is about us allowing people to be what THEY want or need to be, NOT what WE want or need them to be...

However since, as you suggest, the human being is seemingly incapable of achieving universal tolerance, maybe gay people should start referring to "generally really nice guys" (and, indeed, girls) who happen to be STRAIGHT as also being - from THEIR point of view - a "waste"...

I propose this idea, of course, strictly in the spirit of equality! ;-)

Suzanne said...

I hope I didn't offend you there! When I say "waste", I was purely thinking of myself, since the only single men I seem to meet are liars, cheats, commitment phobes or absolute idiots. Whereas the few gay men that I know are sweet, considerate, charming, sensitive.
This is such a sensitive subject that it's extremely difficult for me to express exactly what I feel. Discrimination of any kind infuriates me and I have been subjected to it myself.

Brian Sibley said...

GILL writes...

First, as another heterosexual single female, can I invite Suzanne to think about what she said?

Yes, of course it can be sexually frustrating to find out a guy you might want to sleep with is not going to play, but to describe this as a "waste" seems to me to define people only by their sexuality. I've fancied straight guys who turned out not to want to sleep with me, too; are they a "waste"?

Sorry to sound so solemn, but can't we just enjoy the friendship of "really nice guys"?

Second, although I don't want to hijack the subject, Brian made me think about how much things have changed for women too in the last 40 years. Forty years ago, I could not have a mortgage or even buy anything on credit without a male guarantor; even though I went to a very academic school it was generally assumed that we would be nurses not doctors, cabin crew not pilots; teaching was acceptable [but we were not going to be Heads]; most educated women had their only freedom at University - before that they were under the authority of their fathers, after that, the authority of their husbands.

As I suspect is true for the gay community, it is better now, but it is not good enough. Women are still defined physically: "Blonde 42 year old Mrs X......." is still the typical opening of much reporting. Single working mothers are still pilloried while single working fathers are heroes. There are relatively few women Chief Executives in the commercial world. Women's earnings [on average] are still substantially below men's.

I could [but won't!] go on and on. Until we get to the Nirvana where we can say. "I value and respect you because you are a person" there will still be work to do.

That's quite enough! I must go and do something frivolous before solemnity sets in for the day!

Brian Sibley said...

SUZANNE - No offence taken. Although I've just remembered why I normally only ever blog about absurdities and trivialties! :-)

LisaH said...

Yes, your Blog has opened a rather heated discussion but it was a moving one nevertheless.
I tend to think that it's a shame in general when really nice, good, kind people don't have children and therefore don't live on in the genetic sense. But that applies across the board to people of all sexual orientations.
ps - Maybe you'd better let Buttons have the next blog!

Brian Sibley said...

LisaH - It is, perhaps, also worth remembering that all of us - whatever our gender or orientation - live on in other ways even if we have no children: through any work and achievements we are lucky enough to leave behind when we depart; and, perhaps more importantly, in whatever good and positive ways we have helped and encouraged others to live fuller, richer, happier, more creative lives...

Elliot said...

Everybody's something though, aren't they?

(In this day and age, surely coming to terms with the fact that you're English well outweighs any issue of your sexuality).

Diva of Deception said...

It's interesting watching the words being thrown around on these comments...

Gay v Straight? Married v Single? Worryiing in case we've said the wrong thing and offended someone by mistakenly being frivilous....

It's interesting that sex in marriage, from experience and from being a close friend to many different straight women in many different areas, invariably practically disappears over the years. And not many years either - probably five to ten no matter how old you were when you started the relationship.

So most couples, therefore, once the bloom of the relationship has gone, live side by side as very good friends, as a team but not as lovers as such.

Therefore - sexual preference can probably go out of the window! You can shack up with anyone and have a great life as long as the two of you get on as good friends....

I've met some wonderful women, now married over twenty or thirty years, who wouldn't part with their partners for anything, who love them dearly, who share everything together yet sex hasn't been on the agenda for a very long time. It doesn't change the relationship.

I have also met both men and women who are mourning the passing of minds, where their other half has contracted Alzheimer's at an early age and is no longer the person they started out with. Yet they are still deeply in love and couldn't bear to part with that husband or wife and put them in a home so that both of them will live easier lives.

Gay or straight? It really doesn't matter - just people who love each other, that's what counts.

Ian said...

LOL at Suzanne's comment. When I first "came out" I'd get girl friends who'd come to a gay bar with me saying the same thing all the time. Some years on I find myself thinking (if not saying out loud) "What a waste" whenever I see a good looking heterosexual guy. It cuts both ways and is only a bit of fun.

Diva of Deception is right on the button but the odd thing is that although the sex goes away and something deeper takes its place without the sexual attraction in the first place the something deeper isn't going to happen, even if that first attraction may soon disappear.

I always like Armistead Maupin's line about keeping a jar by the side of your bed and putting a penny in it every time you have great sex with your partner in the first year you're together. After the first year you take a penny OUT of the jar every time you have great sex. No matter how many years you stay together you'll never extract all the pennies you put in.