Queer City : Who Do You Think You Are?

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Queer History is the flavour of the month right now, with the UK celebrating 50 years since the partial-decriminalisation of Homosexuality via the Sexual Offences Act 1967. Partial because decriminalisation ended at age 21, any man or teenager under that age were not deemed consenting adults, so eligible for the long arm of the law. The legal age of consent was reduced to 18 in 1994 and to 16 in 2001. 

Coming out is a tough enough process in itself, for the majority, especially to oneself, let alone family, friends and co-workers. Fuelled with trepidation, projection and fear of rejection, we often have no method to follow, no manual or mentor. Thankfully the internet and You Tube ‘Coming Out’ vids at least offers examples, ideas and results to savour.

Ancestry websites and a certain TV programme support the opportunity to discover your own family history as a genetic thread to WHO YOU ARE, complete with family secrets, mis-told information about past relatives, family illnesses, physical, emotional and mental conditions but no birth, marriage or death certificate is going mention Queer, Homosexual or Gay.

You are probably the first in your family to be OUT. Honour it.

51R8FSHZAPL._SX305_BO1,204,203,200_My own experience of releasing genetic  shame around a differing sexuality came about reading a book in the early nineties, right in the middle of the AIDS epidemic.

I got sent two books, one still in print, one not. The first was Spirit and the Flesh : Sexual Diversity in American Indian Culture ( in print ) and Rictor Norton’s Mother Clap’s Molly House : the Gay Subculture in England 1700-1830, detailed court records of meeting places, crimes of same-sex activity and the hangman’s noose for a rumble fumble in alley-ways, cruising grounds and latrines. 

It taught me that giving myself THE GIFT OF QUEER HISTORY told me who I was, could be, and how I could drop the shame that Oscar Wilde called “the love that dare not speak its name” at his trial for gross indecency. Not Wilde’s prose, as many think, but a line from ‘Bosie’, Wilde’s lover, Lord Alfred Douglas’s fair-handed poem “Two Loves” in 1894.

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A few months ago Peter Ackroyd published Queer City : Gay London from the Romans to the present day, and it’s a real historical TREAT. Who knew that sodomy was so popular?

Do check out the Reviews online and discover the genetic link between you and Roman Soldiers, Middle Age Monks, the Vice of the Normans, Georgian Coffee House Mollies, Dandies, Queens at Court, Renters, Cottagers, 20th Century Clubbers and PRIDE as it is today.

This is your MAP, your family, your spirit lineage and shame-based facility to crush, to rise up from, and give yourself THE GIFT OF HISTORY to nurture, OWN and honour a path well trodden.

Kings Head Theatre Queer Season 2017

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Coming Clean, Kevin Elyot’s first professionally produced play, looks at the breakdown of a gay couple’s relationship and examines complex questions of fidelity and love.

It was first performed pre AIDS at the Bush Theatre, London, on 3 November 1982.

Now it is being revived for its 35th Anniversary into The King’s Head Theatre 2017 Queer Season; a curated 9 week programme of LGBTQI Theatre opening in July.

King’s Head Theatre’s Artistic Director Adam Spreadbury-Maher directs this first London revival of Kevin Elyot’s play that questions fidelity and the limits of love written before his hit play ‘My Night With Reg’, a noted classic of  queer theatre.

bullandgateThe play is set in a flat in Kentish Town, north London, in 1982. Struggling writer Tony and his partner of five years, Greg, seem to have the perfect relationship. Committed and in love, they are both open to one-night stands as long as they don’t impinge on the relationship. But Tony is starting to yearn for something deeper, something more like monogamy. When he finds out that Greg has been having a full-blown affair with their cleaner, Robert, their differing attitudes towards love and commitment become clear.

In 1970 I moved to Dartmouth Park Hill near Tufnell Park tube close to Kentish Town, so was asked where the characters would have cottaged, drank, cruised and found sexual partners as part of character development.

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Set in pre-AIDS 1982, I was asked by the Director to speak to the cast about Gay Life in the 60’s and 70’s so they could develop character parts and ask questions about their respective character backgrounds, so I started out sharing what information about queers were available during criminalisation and what it was like when I came out in 1967 and the background to it. It was a bit of a hoot really talking for almost 90 mins with them scribbling notes and developing production ideas. They were only 3 days into rehearsal, and no one was around in 1982 so it was an eager audience.

We discussed Cottaging, Dirk Bogarde films ACCIDENT & VICTIM, Polari, Politics, The Colhearne, Earls Court Gay Scene in the 60’s, Zipper, HIM Magazine, Crisco, COLT Porn Mags, Poppers, pills, Hampstead Heath, Jack Straw’s Castle, BANGS and Marlboro Red Lights tucked into Capped T shirt sleeves. It was like memory lane. 

Check out all the plays in the season here and get OFF your phone for a while.

http://www.kingsheadtheatre.com

 

Bungie Jump Relationships – Can’t stay, can’t leave.

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I’d like to run away from you, but if you never found me I would die, 
I’d like to break the chains you put around me, but I know I never will, 
You stay away and all I do is wonder why the hell I wait for you, 
But when did common sense prevail for lovers when we know it never will, 
Impossible to live with you, but I know, I could never live without you, 
For whatever you do, I never, never, never want to be in love with anyone but you.

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David Parker peruses . . . 

How many relationships do you know that constantly break-up, then return to the mire of the codependent malady, a few months later? I call these BUNGIE JUMP Relationships. Can’t Stay. Can’t Leave. Bounce back. Try one more time.

Pop songs have a lyrical tradition of loss not love. We call them LOVE ALBUMS, Romantic Operas to intimate connection of the heart, revelling in heartbreak, not heart-warming mindfulness, or the concept that ‘everything is temporary’. We don’t want to hear that, it must last forever, or not at all.

The projection of fear, loss, low esteem, financial depletion or other such devices can keep you in an unhealthy relationship, even in the workplace.

Listen to this haunting ‘love song’ of entrapment, capture and coda infusion.

Would you call this LOVE?

If you identify with the lyrics, or feel at loss within your relationships, it may be that your emotional intelligences needs re-balancing instead of riding the bungie-jump of fear.

This classic tome comes highly recommended for adjustments.

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Relationship Coaching can stop you jumping without bouncing back.

A FREE INTRODUCTION explains the process with no obligation to continue.

Email a brief history or problem for a no-selling, no obligation, no sign-up FREE 2 hour Introduction or ask for a 30 min Skype with a brief assessment of where you need direction. Any email questions will be answered before a Free Introduction booked. Here to help.

This where you begin to take responsibility for yourself, not your partner.  

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mygaytherapist@yahoo.co.uk

Him-Magazine JULY ‘HEROES’ Issue : We Can Be Heroes, Just For One Day

davidbowie_lifestyle_jul13London, England, is lucky enough this summer to be privy to a major retrospective of Bowie: David Bowie is… the biggest sell-out show in the Victoria & Albert (V&A) Museum’s history! It sold out online for the whole four month run, with Five-Star reviews from the media critics. Tickets were only available in limited slots if you visited the museum on the day, so I was lucky to view my own personal history walking around, remembering coming out, broken relationships, pills and clubbing to Bowie’s tracks. His major anthem always was, and still is for me… Heroes… “We can be Heroes, Just for one day.”

The beginning of the exhibition features a collage of influences surrounding teenage David Jones (later Bowie), including the impact of Yuri Gagarin’s first human journey into Outer Space and the Russian Sputnik floating above the ether. Gagarin must have been a hero to a 14 year-old David as much as anyone else, especially as he wrote “Space Oddity” at age 22 in 1969, creating the fictional “Major Tom” spaceman character that became his signature, his vision and legacy. During the same year, Neil Armstrong was the first human to walk on the moon, while fierce gays and trannies at the Stonewall Inn bar refused to be walked all over by police raid brutality, sowing seeds of the Gay Liberation Movement. Heroes, all of them. Checking out the music, costumes and memorabilia dragged me back to a gay life pre-AIDS, when open hard sexuality was the drug of choice. Clones, tartan shirts, bathhouses and above all — hirsute chunks of men – became as ubiquitous as the Marlboro man.

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When it came to therapy work in the 80’s, everything was new; addictions, treatment centers, codependency and empowerment became buzzwords, but you only entered these portals of personal development if you had AIDS or were mentally unbalanced. Looking inward was deemed unnecessary in the UK; that was for Americans and their “shrinks” and “Celebrity Rehab” hadn’t started and we had no idea that the worst was yet to come. Before burn-out, I spent two years on an HIV project working with people holding CD4 counts under 50, mostly under 20, who were just preparing to die.

When you think of the media version of a hero it’s easy to recall a man diving into a pond to rescue a drowning puppy, yet the real heroes of those years were those affected by HIV/AIDS who taught the value of everything, including hope, gratitude, true friendship and dignity. A true gift for those left behind in the darkest of times.

supermanbatman_lifestyle_jul13For many gay men, the most heroic stance is to come out. Therapists refer to the “inner child” as a recovery tool, and the discovery of toxic shame connected to a differing sexuality, family of origin and the impact on adult inter-personal relationships, but I always encourage people to find their own ‘inner hero’ because it’s very easy to pass over, ignore or overlook the courage it took to come out. Heroes Gagarin and Armstrong were trained to float around outer space, yet few teenagers are trained to come out, so it is truly heroic when they do.

The “inner hero” decides inside, awaiting an opportunity to reveal itself, all those occasions when you thought you would’t make it, but you did. When you made changes and took risks, you ultimately won out. Coming to terms with your self and a differing sexuality is as brave as Superman flying across the skies, and not all gay men get off the ground. This is where therapy can assist you to teach the bird to fly.

Bravery is also required when leaving an abusive relationship; when the odds are against you. It takes courage to rescue yourself, instead of waiting for someone to come and rescue you; to be scooped up in Superman’s arms and held safe. Many men wait to be chosen, rather than choosing themselves, awaiting rescue “by a great dark man” as Quentin Crisp put it; either online or in real spaces. This tale of a damsel in distress is an epidemic in the lives of gay men. One plays the victim, the other the fixer.

The victim who has less feels held and safe but inadequate, and fixer gets off on the  control they have due to the codependent nature of the relationship. Eventually, a stalemate is reached and couples counselling is suggested and taken up. It’s at this stage with a counselor as the intervener, that truth begins to unravel, failings honored, observed and owned. Not many couples are brave enough to take this adult route to save themselves. It may look like the therapist is acting as rescuer, but a good one will not be trained to fix clients, but allow clients to fix themselves. When this occurs the “inner hero” unleashes, boundaries begin to be respected and esteem is raised, even if the outcome is not to one partners agenda, but honesty and acceptance is far more heroic than rescuing a puppy.

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You can read my monthly article here in original form here : http://www.him-magazine.com/2013/07/01/we-can-be-heroes-just-for-one-day/

Post Pride Balance

Gay rights activists hold a rainbow flag during a rally to support same-sex marriage in central SydneyWelcome to post PRIDE recovery. The great parties, parades and gatherings have passed, now it’s time to put PRIDE into your life with balance, inner spirit and meditative observations. But where to find time for that?
 
” There’s just too much – too much to learn, to see, too much information, technology and techniques, too many ways to pleasure, too many ways to pain. Too much! How can we be expected to take it all in and deal with it? Perhaps we don’t have to take it all in OR deal with it. What a relief to know that we can go deeper and deeper into whatever we wish, and through that exploration come to understand the everything. Since all of creation is a whole and the oneness of all creation is a reality, our world is indeed a holo-movement or hologram. In exploring the depths of one thing, we gain wisdom about others. Our task, then, is to see what calls to us, what piques our imagination, what stimulates our being and asks us to delve deeper and deeper into it. When we follow this calling, we will find balance. “
 
838032f589b0baac501416bab1b00dc3_previewThese wise words of codependency recovery guru Anne Wilson Schaef remind me that my current intuition has value. When I was bang at it, using chems & alcohol  regularly, I thought that spontaneous thinking and acting out was intuition. What I discovered with personal development was that I was addicted to imbalance and that this spontaneous ‘acting out’ was unhealthy, unfounded in wisdom and detrimental to my health. Basically I couldn’t trust myself and conned myself that I could. Most gay men come into therapy, recovery or personal growth to find balance, but the moment we start searching the net, self help books or lists of therapies to consult, it’s easy to become unbalanced with too many choices. Best if we leave it another day then.
 
Most of us choose have chosen at some point a stimulant to balance us ; alcohol, coke, hash, club drugs, nicotine or a person for example, at first it works then it starts to get out of hand, it gets too much and then we are hooked into being taken hostage, kidnapped until we set ourselves free.
Recognising that we are not the most important person on the planet is a beginning in unfurling the freedom flag. Freedom comes from standing back and making informed choices rather than letting the ego run amok. It’s easy to think we are missing something if we don’t join in. Many people don’t possess a mobile phone, an ipod or have access to a computer. They more than survive. Many have learnt that it takes courage to be with yourself, to sometimes dispense with the demands of the modern age. This is why we crave a day by the sea, a walk in nature or wear sloppy clothes for a week or two. No performance needed.
 
12840957931FnH9uWhat most of us find in personal development is that we are quite amusingly mad. When we get clearer about our own insane thinking we see that the world is madder than first thought. No wonder Antony Newley sang ” Stop the World – I want to get off “. But the result of any therapy is to decide which world we want to live in, so ask yourself that question, take stock and seek balance. What perception of the world ” out there ” do you have “. Does it deliver? It is only a mirror image of your inner world view. Think sanely in balance and the world will change around you.
 
Take stock, by checking out the past few weeks, or the last weekend. Write down what caused you to feel PROUD, then write what could be improved, what needs addressing, what needs to be thrown out. The lighter you are balance is achieved.
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This blog of mine first appeared on July 2 2013 on http://www.guyspy.com/post-pride-balance-2/ in my RELATIONSHIP GUYD column.

Celebrate the Daddies

Image26You have to love social media. An inked twink put up on facebook last weekend ‘Happy Father’s Day to all the Leather Daddies’. It was Father’s Day in the USA, Canada and the UK, (other countries celebrate at different times of year) and aside from the commercial opportunity, it’s time to celebrate the value and wisdom of our gay mentors.

The fathers who, held us together when our relationship went pear-shaped, when our own birth fathers didn’t know we were gay, or when they had booted us out, or knew we were gay but the silence going back home was deafening. No-one mentioned it. Those daddies that started as a street, club or sauna pick up, then became our home tutors in the art of relationship kick-back. I remember very clearly those middle aged men who assisted me in wiping tears when the current boyfriend walked out, never rang back or cheated. Who else could I run to in emotional crisis as a twink barely out of teenage years?

Action-man-001Memories from my gay youth still affect me today. As well as the 2 week relationships that went sour, the germs of codependency, abuse of drink, drugs and credit cards, I also recall the kindness of Brian Eyles who showed me, in a very grand, restaurant, without embarrassing me, how to fillet a Dover Sole in three strokes.

This older gent also paid the bill, never suggested sex, and taught me to make the most tongue quenching champagne cocktails, that I can no longer quench, but praise must be given. The Eighties, sadly, brought about his demise with AIDS, like many that held me to their hearts. I also thank Pav ( known as Peggy, as he had a thing for spring clothes pegs on his nips ) who stood by me at the latter stages of alcoholism, when I ran out of money and despair, feeding and watering me until I got well. Ted Gatty, in his fifties, who in Kent , England WAS the gay scene in the 70’s, holding underground parties in his house basement, for queers to meet, dance and shack up a relationship.

It was here that I met Pat, camp as a coot who travelled hundreds of miles to get to Mum Gatty’s parties and always arrived in the same way. People would say “Is Pat here yet?”. Soon after Pat would arrive with the world’s worst hair-peice crown topper weave EVER. It looked like a yachting cap on his head. He then did a full cartwheel into the hall, to prove it never came off. Pat was 75 and had regular sex with his bisexual postmen. This was my entry into gaylife. No wonder I stayed, such fun, such a family, such a homecoming.

AMmodFuzzHead1Ivor Powell, mid-forties, who guided me as a friend through not only the difficult years, but never laid a hand on me ( with me not knowing he had a fetish for red hair ), who introduced me to all manner of characters, who spellbound me with wartime tales of sucking off US GI’s in tunnels, of antiquarian booksellers who taught me aspects of the classics, and titled baronets who were still ordering rent boys at the age of 75. I am blessed to have embraced these pillars of wisdom into my heart and life experience, these daddies who suffered suppression, even prison for being gay, and not being able to be out to their families.

I was lucky, my Dad accepted me being ‘a homo’, along with my Mum, who said “it’s because David is in Art” as I worked in advertising as a commercial artist. They came to gay parties and gay bars, met my friends and Dad didn’t blink an eyelid. Quite unlike the horror stories we know of, and read about, tales of rejection, distaste and abandonment.

The gift he gave me was one of acceptance, laughter and being ‘matter of fact’. Not that much difference really from the way I work at things today, so he is always with me. He died in 1992, in a bar in Spain, while I was in the UK. Rarely a drinker, he only drank shandy ( lager & lemonade ) and cherry brandy for special occasions. He asked for a cherry brandy in the bar, the barman said “we don’t have it’, Dad promptly fell off his bar stool, had a heart attack and died immediately. What a way to go.

4186434316_bb828b76f8On reflection, even in death he was funny, my Dad. Take one moment to remember the relationship you hold with your own Father, dead, unknown or alive. Do you echo his traits, weaknesses or strong points? Until you get clearer on this, interpersonal relationships with men will resonate with what is uncleared on the resentment front.

Perhaps sadness that he was emotionally unavailable to deal with sexuality, bondship and presence. Think of those gay daddies also, that held you in their arms in silence, teaching you the things they never knew: freedom, respect, & shameless esteem. Think of the Daddies that AIDS swept away in a tsunami almost overnight, and the gay seniors, the grandfathers who lost their lovers, friends and acquaintances, who now stumble in the wilderness of loss without people to talk to in the winter of their years, their friends gone by. Do befriend them. You will learn so much.

The new generation of bears and daddies have much history to teach, about HIV prevention, virus living and healthier communications, as inter-generational relationships, of all kinds are more visible now. Maybe now is the time to ask : “Who is mentoring ME now?”. What is my birth father relationship like, does it need attention? Have all resentments been resolved? Have you told him you love him, hugged him or sent a letter into the ether if he has passed over or untraceable? One day you will look in the mirror and see his face, for better or worse.

Take this as a starting point of discovery.

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This blog of mine first appeared on GuySpy.com on June 18 2013 – http://www.guyspy.com/celebrate-the-daddies/

Queer Happiness

abbatin2” You don’t know the meaning of true happiness until you hear 30,000 Gay Men recognise the opening bars of Dancing Queen “, so wrote a str8 journalist for the London Evening Standard, reporting on the Opening Ceremony of the GAY GAMES in Amsterdam in 1998. You can imagine the rush, the sense of belonging, the HAPPINESS in those brief riff seconds of connection. Clubland, Disco and secret nightclubs have always been our haven. The chance to be ourselves, to be authentic, to be free, to be queerly relaxing with our own kind. Dancing Queen by Abba certainly captured the essence of underground popper sexuality, way before ‘hands in the air’ circuit party chems, became the norm.

Some of us recall the re-emergence of the word ‘Queer’ in mid-AIDS politics in the early 90’s, the snatching back of a mid-twentieth century term of attack. Now post-millennium the word QUEER has a changed yet again into a term embracing all sexualities and genders, indicating alternative, creative and avant grade. I was called ‘a queer’ at school, or an ‘OMO’ so I was queer before ‘gay’ became commonplace and ironically both words mean ‘happy’. One of the things I hear time and time again from gay men is ” I don’t fit in”. They answer to that is ‘you don’t need to, in order to be happy’.
 
 
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In the UK, the hot TV programme mid-nineties was ‘Queer as Folk’ a radical, tell it like it is, drama series. In Northern England, they still say ” there’s nowt as queer as folk”, as they did the previous century, because the word queer meant ‘odd, unconventional or eccentric’. At the same time as this trailblazing show, I was knee deep in a new book by Dr David Weeks and Jamie James, the first scientific study of eccentric behaviour called ECCENTRICS. The conclusion of this study was that odd ‘queer’ people were the happiest people on earth because they didn’t care what people thought. No shame, no fitting in and certainly no people-pleasing. We have a lot to learn from them. At the last chapter I switched from seeing my queer sensibility as an asset, not a cross to bear as an outcast. I was particularly taken with Ann Atkin from Devon England who not only had 7,500 gnomes in her garden, but dressed as one on a daily basis. She was as happy as Larry, supermarket shopping with red cheeks and a pointy hat. Good for her! Dr Weeks concluded that eccentrics were nonconforming, creative, idealistic, aware from early childhood that they were different, intelligent, and in possession of a mischievous sense of humour. Well as I ticked all the boxes, I went from queer to eccentric and back to queer, I saw it as the same in the end. Living queer without performance breeds happiness.
 
tumblr_m8q0hmFf1d1rbkz31o1_1280Armed with bravery and my new eccentric weapon of freedom I could be whoever I wanted to be. From that point to now I recognised my eccentricity as vital, my different-ness, and my somewhat rebellious lack of desire to fit in as an asset. Masculine fashions change anyway. The streets of East London particularly, are paved with the ‘new queers’, inked skinny bitches who refuse the mantle of porn masculinity preferring instead the odd, the punk and the scruff. Funny how these guys will be cloned into the norm sooner or later before the next batch of queer look appears. Happiness, and the experience of it, is relative, and as diverse as our LGBTQ community. It is no companion to shame or apology, for accepting who are, results in a happier disposition. Coming out as queer, eccentric, gay, bi or whatever word you use, also means being as brave as Ann Atkin in her pointy hat, in cultures, communities,and churches. It’s a brave but essential road to walk, but remember those liberating queers that walked before you, respectful head held high, learn from that. Gay marriage is not for all, or even being in a relationship for that matter, but real happiness, queer or not  is being content with what you HAVE got, rather than what you haven’t. Truth, authenticity and loving yourself  exactly as you are, is a great boyfriend to be happy with. Do you walk this road?
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Checking out queer films I came across this blog of listed queer films, if queer history interests you. At the time of Abba, men cruised the streets, not on-line, and when the concept of AIDS was sci-fi we used instinct, not profiles. I was particularly impressed with his opening quote ” I’m bored and depressed with today’s gay image of marriage, adopted babies and content bourgeoise living. Blandly masculine, domestic and inoffensive is the new gay stereotype and I can’t relate anymore. This list is a tribute to tough queer thugs with switchblades, bisexual hustlers, sissy villains, killer drag queens and true outcasts, films that got me through my years as a sexually confused teen. I’ve also included some (occasionally offensive) homo horror for the hell of it “.
 
 

this blog first appeared on my regular RELATIONSHIP GUYD column on http://guyspy.com