Queer City : Who Do You Think You Are?

19732207_10156468131179966_1335118140677628588_n

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.

queer_city_hb.jpg

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.

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.

stonewallheroes_lifestyle_jul13

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.

________________________________________________________

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/