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  1. The Gayest Nightclub in the World is in…. Dubai?

    August 16, 2011 by admin

    I recently spent a weekend in Dubai, where evidently all I did was eat Mexican food, go shopping, and hang out with gay men.  I might as well have been in Los Angeles.

    And in fact, the comparison isn’t entirely inappropriate.  As in LA, human amusement
    in Dubai seems consist of going to the beach, lolling mindlessly by the pool, and visiting these huge, over-the-top shopping malls.  And oh. Yeah.  You also have to drive to get around anywhere…

    But one key difference is that in LA, the gay population is very visible.  Just go to any Starbucks in West Hollywood and you’ll see a plethora of tanned, muscular physiques, tight black T-shirts, and designer handheld pooches.  In Dubai, you have to look a lot harder to find the gays, but they’re definitely still there.

    During my weekend there, I looked up “Adrian,” a friend-of-a-friend, who has been living in Dubai for six years.  As a gay Australian working in the tourism industry, he’d traveled to many a country and sampled the gay lifestyle there.  “Lebanon?” he said.  “I’m convinced that entire country is gay.”

    Dubai, he said, was very gay, too, but not in the same way.  As homosexual acts are technically illegal in the United Arab Emirates, and gender relations are overall conservative, most LGBTs conceal their sexual orientation in public.  But get them to the right bar or club, and it all comes loose. Adrian told me about a hulking airline pilot named Mohammed, who was prancing around on the dance floor the other night, screaming “Just
    call me Mimi!”

    But there’s a very good chance Mohammed/Mimi is married (to a woman) with
    children.  After all, it’s taken for granted in Gulf culture that as a man, you will have a family, regardless of your sexual orientation.  All people are expected to become breeders.  And a great number of marriages are by arrangement, and not for love.  Adrian described a Kuwaiti gay couple who had had a relationship for years, since they were very young.  One got married and one managed to stay “single.” But they continued to see each other over the decades, on fishing trips and weekends away.

    “It’s all very Brokeback Mountain,” he explained, slurping down his third margarita.

    “Does the wife know?” I asked.

    Adrian shrugged.  “It doesn’t really matter.  That’s not what their marriage is about.”

    Is it hypocrisy?  Or is it just another culture’s approach to marriage and sexuality?  My openly gay Western friends are often shocked when I describe this. One said: “How do they do it?  It’s tough enough to try and lead a double life as a gay man working in finance!”

    But as The Atlantic suggested in its famous 2007 article “The Kingdom in the Closet,” in a restrictive Muslim society, it’s almost easier to have a gay relationship than a straight one before marriage because there’s such strict separation between the sexes.  Likewise, homosexuality is more something that you do, than something that you are.  It’s a behavior, not an identity.  In the West, where LGBT rights have become such a politicized issue, gay activists walk down the streets of New York holding signs that say “Did I vote
    on your marriage?”  People’s identities are defined by their sexual orientation, and in an arena where rights and privileges are debated in public, that often creates divisions and oppositions.  In the Arab world, it’s hidden and therefore, perhaps less divisive.

    Later that evening, Adrian and I swung by Zuma, a trendy sushi bar with elaborate cocktails and a kicking DJ.  It was very much like the original Zuma in London, where everyone looked beautiful, heterosexual, and immaculately groomed. Hm, I thought.  I could easily be in Knightsbridge.

    After Zuma unexpectedly shut its bars at 11:30 (a new law in the business district), we went to a notorious nightclub called “Balloon” once described to me as “the gayest club in the world.”  As a fag hag, I was very curious.  After all, I lived in Vauxhall, London for
    eight years and often found myself in Soho.  To call something the gayest club in the world is a very big statement to me.

    “Balloon” is tucked inconspicuously in the bowels of a three-star hotel, where no one would suspect the gayest club in the world throbs to the beat of its own Kylie soundtrack. We drifted down the hallway, passing a cheesy Mexican-themed restaurant, and arrived at the entrance to “Balloon,” where I (as a woman) was allowed to go in for free and Adrian was charged AED 100 (about $27).

    It may be the gayest nightclub in the world, but it still charges cover like a straight club.

    As it was still early, I only saw a bunch of men randomly sitting around while music blared.  So in essence, not really different from any other nightclub in the Middle East.

    “Wait,” Adrian told me. “It’ll get busier.”

    Despite the dance music, I noticed a few televisions showing a football game.  In a gay club?

    “At midnight, will the façade come down, and they’ll start showing musicals?” I joked.

    I wish I could tell you something insanely gay happened, like a bunch of Arab men launching into an impromptu mass synchronized Vogue, but it didn’t.  What struck me was the diversity of gayness in the place.   You had everything from very camp, very effeminate boys, to the hairy middle-aged “bears” and everything in between – all styles, all races, Arabs, Africans, Asians, Western ex-pats.  In London, gay clubs are often pigeonholed into the one for bears, the one for twinks, the one for slim Asians and the older white men who love them, etc.  But here, in a society where gay culture is often concealed from the mainstream, an underground gay club is equal opportunity, indiscriminate, all-encompassing.

    Have gay men in the West become victims of their own exclusivity?

    By the time we sloped out of that club at an early 2:00am, the place was hopping with every possible strain of gay man you could imagine – plus a couple of fag hags.

    “Surely the police must know about this place, right?” I asked Adrian, as we emerged
    back into the anodyne hotel corridor.

    He answered that they probably do, but they tend to turn a blind eye.   Everyone knows there’s a gay community somewhere in Dubai, just no one says anything about it.

    So no one actually gets arrested for being gay then?

    Adrian smiled. “They don’t like it when you go in drag.  You dress up as a woman, you’ll get arrested.”

    See, I told you they like to keep the sexes separate around here.

  2. Where are the Gays in Hogwarts?

    July 20, 2011 by admin

    Voldemort rocks the androgynous post-apocalyptic look with shaved head, long fingernails and floor-length boiled wool cape. Signature detail: lack of nose.

    Tilda Swinton comes from the same planet.

    Where I live in the Middle East, Friday brunch is an institution, especially among the ex-pat community.  Most of the luxury hotels offer a gluttonous buffet with unlimited sparkling wine.  The price tag is high, but then you get to over-eat and over-drink yourself silly, so no one complains.                  

    Over the weekend, I ended up at the 40th birthday brunch of a man I’d never met before.  This man, of course, was gay.  In fact, the attendees of this brunch were: 7 gay men, 3 straight couples (one with twin kids), 1 lesbian, and me.  It’s like without even trying, my social life in London has magically replicated itself here in the Middle East!

    Someone asked if I was the lesbian’s girlfriend.  I repeat, my social life in London seems to have magically replicated itself… 


    Homosexuality Litmus Test No. 526: The Harry Potter franchise

    Q: Dear Fag Hag,

    My friend is a grown man who has exhibited no previous interest in fantasy/sci-fi stuff. He is not a father, a father-to-be, a schoolteacher, and does not interact with kids on regular basis. Yet he is somewhat obsessed with the Harry Potter series, has read all the books, and insists on seeing the films on opening weekend.  Is he gay?

    A: YES.

    This is not to say that all gay men like Harry Potter.  I know some who loathe the pop cultural phenomenon  as much as your average pagan-fearing, evangelical Christian.   But chances are, if a grown man is rushing out of his own accord to see the final Harry Potter installment, he’s a fag.  I have yet to meet a grown straight man, disassociated from kids, who will publicly profess his love of the Harry Potter franchise. That’s just too gay.  

    My gay Australian flatmate in London, “Will,” would often engage in unannounced Harry Potter marathons. I would come home to find him watching another adolescent tiff between Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley while some shriveled, elf-like creature whined by their feet.

                    “Which one is this?” I would ask.  “Number Four?”

                    “Number Two,” ‘Will’ would answer.  “Obviously.”

    I myself am not a massive Harry Potter fan, although I appreciate the solid entertainment value of the films.  (I haven’t read the books.)  Over the weekend, I of course, did see the latest and final installment of the films.  Accompanied by two other girls and a gay man.  

                    But this abundant gay love for the Harry Potter franchise got me thinking.  With such a gay fanbase, isn’t ironic that the series offers such little representation of LGBT characters?  In fact, where are the gays in Hogwarts? 

                    The final scene of the film is a particularly hetero-normative portrait of “happily ever after.”  Nineteen years later, we see the main characters have all married their wizard school sweethearts and are sending their own kids off to start their Hogwarts education.  Needless to say, they’re all straight.  And they all look identical to their teenage selves… except now they’re wearing more adult clothes and Ron has learned to shave.   But is this progress?  Wouldn’t it have been nice to see at least one lesbian couple sending off their kid to his/her first day at Hogwarts?   

    J.K. Rowling and Co. obviously make a significant effort to show Hogwarts as a racially diverse place.  Yeah, ok, the lead characters are still white.  But hey, I see some color there in the background – we have black kids, Indian kids, Eastern Europeans, and dude, Harry Potter even had a crush on a Chinese girl.   (Asian fetish, Harry… tsk tsk.)    But aside from ethnic diversity, where’s that other kind of diversity in the wizard world? 

                    Fine, you can argue that the Hogwarts kids are still only teenagers, so no one’s out of the closet yet.  In which case…. Hogwarts should start a glee club, and that would be sure to attract at least one stereotypically flaming student, along with a disturbingly perfect cross-section of the school’s racial diversity.  Including one kid in a wheelchair.   If Severus Snape led the glee club, they’d be sure to win sectionals.

                    Ah. Now.  If you’re a diehard Harry Potter fan or particularly up on your LGBT-portrayals-in-pop-culture, you may be squirming in your seat now, tempted to shout out: “BUT DUMBLEDORE IS GAY!!!!”  It’s true.  Google it.  Ms. Rowling herself confirmed it at a public reading in Carnegie Hall, New York, in October 2007. Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts, founder of the Order of the Phoenix, greatest wizard of the Order of Merlin, etc etc is a fag.

    That explains the long, lingering looks at Hagrid.  The avuncular grooming of Harry… 

    Dreams of glee club glory....

    Now, that’s all very well and good, but Dumbledore’s sexual orientation was never hinted at in the books or the films, and the fact remains: DUMBLEDORE DIED in a rather spectacular fashion.  The sole gay character in the whole franchise GOT KILLED OFF.  So a nice concession to the LGBT community, to make the most powerful wizard a homosexual, but it’s not a very encouraging message to kids, eh?  

    And as J.K. Rowling has explained, Dumbledore’s back story is a very sad one of unrequited gay love.  He might have been gay, but as Headmaster of the greatest wizard school in the UK, was he ever allowed to act on it?  Heck, he might as well have become a bishop for the Church of England.

                    Anyway, I have to say none of this particularly bothered me while I was watching the film. Instead, I spent most the film preoccupied by Voldemort’s missing nose.  I kept on leaning over to my friend and asking: “What happened to his nose?”  And then “But didn’t he ever have one to start with?” And then “You know, there might be some new procedures which can bring his nose back.”

                    As my friend later informed me, Voldemort lost his nose during a series of experiments to increase his wizardly powers.  Maybe the saga of Voldemort’s missing nose could be seen as a Faustian cautionary tale to yummy mummys looking to invest in the latest plastic surgery.  Or like Michael Jackson, that other androgynous master of magic who kept on reinventing himself.  And eventually died in spectacular fashion.

    Whatever.  It’s a good thing Voldemort never came out here to the Middle East.  Because without a nose, he’d have a lot of trouble wearing sunglasses.  And you know what?  It’s frickin’ bright out here in the desert.

  3. From Vauxhall…. to the Middle East!

    July 12, 2011 by admin


    The other day, I visited my local sexual health clinic, as all responsible adults should do – be they heterosexual, homosexual, asexual.   There was the standard list of sexual health questions.  Evidently, this included asking me if I engaged in commercial sex.

                    “Commerical sex?”  I repeated.  It took me a moment to figure that one out. 

    But when I did, I was very tempted to reply: “No, not commercial.  Just arthouse.”


    Anyway, big news in the past few weeks.  Gay marriage has been legalized in New York, London Gay Pride took place with a legion of corporate sponsors…and I’ve just relocated to a country where homosexual acts are illegal!  Yes, rather suddenly, I’ve moved to the Middle East.  The fag hag relocates from Vauxhall to the land of Shari’a law.  

    Of course, this does not mean that there aren’t ANY gay men in this part of the world.  Far from it.  But it’s kind of like last month’s decision by the Church of England regarding gay bishops:  Gay bishops will be allowed in the Church, so long as they remain celibate. 

    Hm, let’s think about that for a moment.   Straight bishops, of course, don’t have to remain celibate.  But because sex outside of marriage is unacceptable for a bishop, and gay marriage isn’t recognized by the Church…. Well, I guess any aspiring gay bishops will just have to abstain for the remainder of their liturgical careers!   Perhaps it’s a small price to pay for the honor to be the Church of England’s first out-and-publicly-celibate gay bishop.

    Here the Church is effectively saying: “We know you’re gay.  You’re just not allowed to act on it.”

    Now that’s quite a challenge for most Western gay men I know.

    From what I hear and have experienced, this is not a massively different attitude from “authorities” in Muslim countries.  So I will keep on observing — and I intend to keep you entertained and enlightened with my blog posts from here.  So stayed tuned, true believers, for the Adventures of the Fag Hag in the Middle East…

    Oh, one more thing.  I assure you, this is not some ridiculous publicity/content stunt, and I have actually moved to another continent.   Unlike that secret lesbian blogger in Syria, I am a REAL FAG HAG living in the Middle East, and not some middle-aged American white guy writing from Scotland.  I won’t be making any of this stuff up…

    And in case you think I’ve abandoned the UK completely, I haven’t.   Over the weekend, I was interviewed by a British journalist who is writing an article on fag hags!  That article should be coming out this summer in a leading LGBT magazine in the UK, and I’ll keep you posted when it does.

    In the meantime, 40°C heat beckons, and Shari’a law.  I head out into the desert sands…. (a bit melodramatic, I know). I’ll tell you what I find out there.

  4. Royal Wedding Fever! Part 2: Why the World Needs a Gay and Out Royal

    May 20, 2011 by admin


    Three weeks after the royal wedding, and the media here in the UK is still desperately trying to keep our attention with updates on Wills & Kate’s honeymoon destination, and more importantly — Pippa Middleton’s bum.  Forget the violent repression of an uprising in Syria, the IMF chief being accused of rape, or the death of Osama bin Laden – Pippa Middleton’s bum trumps all.   Come on, this is important stuff!  We need to know if she wore Spanx or practiced a regimen of daily pilates to achieve that kind of headline-grabbing rear.   Because all women care about, really, is how their ass looks.   And clearly, all straight men care about is how a woman’s ass looks.

    Anyway, gay men naturally have no interest in Pippa Middleton’s bum, which I find refreshing.   They’re more interested in the actual royals, not the in-laws.  When he had more hair, Prince William was a gay icon, Prince Harry likely still is, and of course, their mom Diana commanded a legion of homosexual admirers around the world.  These days, however, gay activists have an interest in Wills and Kate for other reasons.   The day before the royal wedding, the Equal Love Campaign arrived in front of Buckingham Palace with a giant greeting card for William and Kate.  It read:

    Congratulations William & Kate on your Wedding Day. We wish you a happy life together. You can get married, gay people can’t. We are banned by law. We ask you to support marriage equality.

    Not quite Hallmark, and thus far, there has been no response from the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.  But I’m not surprised.   After all, I doubt few straight newlyweds have a to-do list that reads like this:

    • Get married
    • Go on honeymoon
    • Legalize gay marriage

    However, we do know William & Kate have gay friends, so wouldn’t it be cool if somewhere in their glittering future as photogenic charitable-cause idols, they decided to adopt the cause of gay marriage?  After all, once the Future King of Britain decides to champion something, who can say no?  Whether we like it or not, the monarchy adds legitimacy — to a country, to a society, or to a humanitarian cause.

    But if we wanted to take things one step further, you know what would really hammer home the rainbow flag in our sociopolitical landscape?  If a gay royal ever decided to come out of the closet.  

     Now, history is full of royals who, according to rumor or verifiable fact, were gay. Prince George, Duke of Kent (reference point:  younger brother of Colin Firth’s character in The King’s Speech) was notoriously bisexual, and reputedly had affairs with Noel Coward and his own cousin Louis Ferdinand, Prince of Prussia.  The Crusader Richard the Lionhearted (reference point:  Anthony Hopkins in The Lion in Winter) apparently got it on with Philip II of France (Timothy Dalton in The Lion in Winter).  Then of course, there’s Edward II King of England (the effeminate lispy prince in Braveheart) whose numerous homosexual affairs so angered his French wife, that she eventually took a lover, left the country, invaded it with an army, and deposed her own husband.  Edward II died in prison, and according to popular legend, was executed for his misdeeds by having a red-hot poker shoved up his anus.   (Let’s face it: Gay Englishman + French wife.  It was never going to end well.)


    Well, times have changed.   These days , if a gay royal were ever treated like that, human rights watch groups would be on top of you like Elton John on David Furnish.  (Or maybe it’s the other way around.)   Prince William’s just married a commoner, and the monarchy has gone from being an antiquated bloodline of rulers by divine right to a PR-polished troupe of patriotically beloved philanthropists.  They’re living symbols, as evidenced by the Queen’s recent visit to Ireland.

    So I think it’s high time a gay royal came out of the closet.   That’d definitely be symbolic.  Not convinced?   Well, I’ve even compiled a list to help you along:

    Top Ten Reasons To Come of Out of the Closet If You’re a Gay Royal

    1)      Guaranteed Status as a Fashion Icon  

    Princess Di was one, Princess Kate is becoming one…. If you’re a gay prince, with your own army of stylists and beauticians at hand, just think of the influence you could wield in the fashion world…

    2)      No Longer Possible to Execute You

    As discussed above in relation to Edward II’s unfortunate death.  In fact, violent homophobes would have their work cut out for them, because you’d have your own security detail

    3)      Opportunity to Meet All Your Gay Icons

    Madonna, Kylie, and Bette Midler would all be thrilled to meet you

    4)      Think of the Groupies

    …Need I say more?

    5)      Embraced by the LGBT Community Around the World

    Be a legend for your fellow gays

    6)      All the Normal Reasons Why You Would Want to Come out of the Closet Anyway

    None of the lies, the deceit, the pretending to be something you’re not, the “yes mum, I just haven’t found the right girl,” etc.  Match your public image with your real identity!

    7)      Really Screw Up the Political Spectrum

    In their fervent support of you, jingoist monarchists would be cheering alongside gay rights activists, and right-wing homophobes would be in the same camp as liberal anti-monarchists.   Heh heh, that’ll really fuck things up….

    8)      Best Gay Wedding. Ever.

    Wills and Kate had at least £20 million to blow.   With that kind of budget, you could probably hire Kylie.

    9)      One Massive Leap Forward for Gay Rights

    Needless to say, if you came out as a royal and campaigned for LGBT rights, it would be very difficult for the public to ignore the issue anymore. 

    10)   Imminent Oscar-winning Biopic About You

    Oh my god, your story has ‘Hollywood treatment’ written all over it.   As explained in my February 27th blog, you will surely be portrayed by some hot straight A-lister who will later be teary-eyed, accepting an Oscar for their performance of you.

    Basically, I don’t see where you can go wrong. If the United States can elect a black president, surely at least Europe is ready for a publicly gay royal.

    In the meantime, Britain seems happy enough with a commoner-turned-princess.   Although the feminist in me is disappointed with Kate Middleton’s lack of career.   Check this: despite graduating from one of Britain’s top universities, the only job she has ever held outside her family’s party supply business was at the high street clothing chain, Jigsaw.  And that was for less than a year.  Dude, whatever happened to Cinderella?  At least she had a good work ethic.  And sang to melodiously to household critters .   Come on, she deserved happily ever after.     Then again, I suppose it looks good enough to put Future Queen of Britain on your CV…. 

    But Kate, you know what would really bulk up your CV?  I’m talking the kind of accomplishment that would override those snide comments about any lack of professional or real-world experience?  If you could manage to write on it: “Helped legalize gay marriage in the UK.”

    Try topping that with your shapely bum, younger sister.

  5. (Royal) Wedding Fever! Revert to Gender Stereotype!

    May 3, 2011 by admin


    Here in London, it’s spring and wedding season is off to a running start, thanks to the recent £20-million nuptials of Prince William and Kate Middleton. What I liked most about the royal wedding was that I, and millions of Brits, could celebrate without having to buy them some random kitchen appliances and not-really-necessary-but-they-look-so-nice sets of cocktail glasses via an online gift registry.  I did buy a dodgy £2 Union Jack flag with the happy couple’s faces on it, which looked like it had been printed out by a dot-matrix in someone’s garage.   This I waved earnestly, alongside 100,000 other people in Hyde Park last Friday.   

    The wedding itself took place in Westminster Cathedral, which is a 20 minute walk from my apartment.  Which is closer than any wedding I’ve ever been invited to.   Honestly, this was refreshing – a wedding I could celebrate WITHOUT having to get on a plane?  Where I could sleep in my own bed at night, and NOT in a hotel room which was part of a block booking under the name “X/Y” wedding at the venue, reserved months in advance?  How quaint and traditional! 

    Oh, I could lament our increasingly globalized times.  I’m not going to, because I’ve had the chance to visit many fascinating and exotic places via my friends’ destination weddings.   I will, however, lament the increasing burden on my bank account that these weddings have placed on a single, financially challenged writer/filmmaker.  Often, there is the scramble to find the only other single woman/gay man at the wedding with whom I can share a double room.  The trawl for affordable-yet-memorable gifts on the online registry.  In fact, do you know how many sets of martini glasses I’ve bought my married friends over the years?  Christ, I don’t even own martini glasses.  But I’ve enabled many a newlywed’s cosmo-swilling habit.  In fact, I’ve found martini glasses and ice cream scoopers are a good combination for wedding presents.  Everyone likes martinis; everyone likes ice cream.  No one wants to be the person funding the cleaver.

    Now, the other, rather terrifying phenomenon about modern weddings is the hen/stag party.  Often these take up a whole weekend, require traveling to a foreign city, and cost just as much as attending the wedding itself.   A month ago, I flew to Frankfurt for a close friend’s hen party.  Thankfully, the traditional German hen party, or Junggesellinnenabschied, does not involve traipsing around in embarrassing costumes with a blow-up man/giant penis, getting heinously drunk, kissing random strangers, hiring a male stripper, and puking somewhere along the way.  (Hopefully after the kissing of random strangers.)   Because that seems to be the traditional British version of a hen party, judging from the various ones I’ve witnessed in London, Bath, Edinburgh, Amsterdam, and many a European city.

    The male version – the stag weekend – is equally fascinating.  Standard elements of British stag weekends include:

    •          Go-karting or race-track oriented stuff where you get to drive really fast
    •           Boating
    •           Hunting (or some shooting of guns)
    •           Fishing
    •           Laser-tag or paintball (this falls into the “Shooting of Guns” category)
    •           Visiting strip bars and buying the groom a lapdance
    •           And of course, lots of heavy drinking

    Notice the emphasis on “hunter/gatherer” type activities.  I’m sure this is all accompanied by a lot of grunting, ball-scratching, and cracking of scatological jokes.  I mean, isn’t that what all you straight guys do when you get together?

    But yeah, I get it, find the most testosterone-fuelled things you can do and celebrate your collective maleness, because that kind of lifestyle ENDS when you get married, right?   I mean, boys will be boys until they get married… and then obviously they become hen-pecked husbands whose lives are miserable.

    Similarly, hen weekends place a big emphasis on doing “girly” stuff, like manicures, makeovers, massages, mudbaths, hanging around in spas, and a lot of chatting.  Why don’t you just put baking and needlepoint in there while you’re at it?  At least they’re productive.   And while I like the occasional massage or mudbath, personally I’d much rather be playing paintball then listening to a conversation on how he proposed, what the ring looks like, what the dress looks like, what the flowers look like, etc. which seem to be the standard topics of discussion at a hen party.  (Yawn)   In a more feminist twist, I once had to sit through a 40-minute debate on why the bride should or shouldn’t take her husband’s surname.  That was still painful.  During this time, I found a green balloon I could play with.

    Please don’t get me wrong. I’m very happy my friends are getting married to people they love, and I find weddings a lot of fun.  But what disturbs me most about hen/stag parties is the expectation for everyone to revert to lazy gender stereotypes  – because, of course, all guys must secretly love fishing and all girls must secretly love manicures.   And then, let’s hire a stripper of the opposite sex and reduce everything to base carnality.  Come on, guys, act masculine!  Girls, be girly!  When in reality, most people don’t fall into such extreme gendered behavior, and are much more balanced individuals.  When the modern marriage is about equality and partnership, it seems a shame to celebrate by buying directly into these gender clichés.

    And then, just to screw up the equation, what about the gays?   If you have two people of the same sex marrying each other, does the concept of a hen or stag weekend even apply?  I’ve asked most of my gay couple-ite friends, and few of them bothered to have a stag weekend.  My friend “V” says: “As a gay couple, what would be different from before and after getting married?”  And “Marcus” says: “Stag weekends are about what you can still get away with before marriage.  If a gay couple wanted to cheat, they’d do it before marriage and would still do it after.”   My bisexual friend Rodden did have an impromptu stag party in Manchester which involved going to a series of night clubs and finally a tittie bar with his gay fiance’s straight brothers.   But this wasn’t planned.  He says if he had the time to organize a stag party, it would have included an outing to Chariots, the local gay spa in Vauxhall.   Chariots is men-only, and Rodden would have invited both straights and gays.  But somehow, he thinks, his straight male friends would have opted out of attending that party…

    Hen and stag parties used to work because the implication was that weddings were between a man and woman.  And that the bride only had female friends, and the stag only had male friends, so woo-hoo, let’s have one last knees-up with the old pals before entering the scary portal of married life.  But in this day and age, people have close friends of all genders and sexual orientations, and a wedding doesn’t necessarily unite two people of the opposite sex.  So maybe, perhaps, the traditional way of celebrating the hen and stag party is a little out-dated, and a little too simplistic.  

    Maybe two of my straight friends got it right when they decided to combine their hen and stag parties and call it a “hag party.”  I like the idea of this, although it unfortunately prevented any important girl-only bonding over pedicures or that special male-to-male camaraderie which only happens when getting lap dances from topless women.   

    So, when and if I ever get married, does this mean I can’t invite my gay male friends to my hen party, because they’re not women?   This is agony for a fag hag!  Anyway, thankfully, that moment of tough decision-making is still a long ways away in my lifetime.   Until then, I can continue safely buying martini glasses and ice cream scoopers for all my married friends on their wedding day.  Heck, I might even get a set of branded with Wills and Kate’s faces and send it over to the royal newlyweds.  I’m sure they’d appreciate that.

  6. Turned Away from a Gay Club!… On exclusivity and the gay community

    April 25, 2011 by admin


    Am back in London now, having completed the West Highland Way a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, Operation: Find Gay Men in the Scottish Highlands was a big FAIL.  Other than the sole unconfirmed sighting which I reported in my last blog post, I failed to locate any non-heteros on my hike.  I tell myself that’s ok.  It might have been a weather thing. 

    See, like most other people, gays seem to emerge more visibly when the weather improves.  Since it was miserable driving wind and rain for 50% of my time in Scotland (it’s Scotland, after all), I don’t blame the gays for staying inside.  In fact, I don’t blame ANYONE for staying inside.

    In contrast, it’s now Easter weekend, and here in London we’re experiencing unseasonal summery weather – constant sun, temperatures over 26 C… Ha, take that, Spain!   Wandering past my local gay bar, the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, I was pleased to see the nearby grassy hill packed with gay men sunning themselves and enjoying a social pint of lager.  Oh yes, the sun’s out in full force, and so are the gay men. 

    In fact, so busy are the streets of Soho these days, that the other night, I was even turned away from a gay club.  I repeat: I was turned away from a gay club.  Can you imagine?  I could have turned to the doorman, flashed my business card, and said: “Excuse me, do you know who I am?  My blog is!”  But I decided to be nice and humble, retained my anonymity, and instead went along with my friends to a much more inclusive venue, appropriately called The Friendly Society.   (Interior deco includes: Barbie dolls pinned to the ceilings, chandeliers made out of ornate handbags, The Sound of Music projected onto the wall.)  

    Admittedly, the club we were turned away from was the infamous G-A-Y Bar on Old Compton Street, which sometimes operates on a membership policy.   Said membership policy clearly is meant to exclude five straight-looking girls like us, who may just be there to ogle the fit and shirtless torsos of gay men in a safe environment.  The truth is, we weren’t going to just ogle men!  We had to meet some gay friends who were already inside.  But the rules of London nightclubs are harsh.  If you’re the wrong the gender, you’re not really wanted.

    Everyone knows that a group of five men trying to enter a straight London nightclub on a busy night will have trouble getting in.   Group of five nicely-dressed women?   No problem.  You might even get a drink on the house, depending on how desperate they are.  It’s simple economics, supply and demand.  Straight men go where the women are.  If there’s too many men in a nightclub, the women will get scared away, and no one wants a sausage-fest.  At least in the straight world.  In the G-A-Y world, a sausage-fest is apparently all they want!   So it only makes sense that straight-looking women don’t factor at all into homo-economics, and get turned away from the door.   

    It’s comforting to know that in this day and age, when you can’t visibly exclude potential clients on the basis of race or sexual orientation, it’s still ok to discriminate on the basis of gender.  (I haven’t tried disability yet.  I might test this by rocking up to a nightclub in a wheelchair and demanding entrance … After all, paraplegics have the right to dance to cutting-edge DJs, too!)

    But are today’s entertainment venues really as politically correct as we’d like them to be, even on the trendy issue of sexual orientation?   Apparently not.   A few blocks away from the heaving gay district of Old Compton Street sits a pub called The John Snow.   This pub has been the center of much media attention recently.  On April 13th, two gay men were kicked out of The John Snow for kissing there while on a date.  Apparently, a man claiming to be the landlord told them: “I don’t want to see that.  It offends me.” Shortly afterwards, a lady claiming to be the landlady said: “You need to leave.  You’re being obscene.”

    Yes, shock and horror.  The BBC reported this, the gay community got motivated, and two days later, over 800 people pledged to attend a “kiss-in” protest at the pub.   The John Snow closed at 3pm that day, to avoid the kiss-in, and consequently lost a lot of potential business on a Friday night.  Protestors continued with their plan outside the pub, resulting in a touching display of gay solidarity on a warm spring evening.   (see photos above)

    When a second “kiss-in” was scheduled, The John Snow shut down again.  So far, there has been no comment from the owners.  But for a pub which used to be very popular with the after-work (and generally pro-gay) media crowd in Soho, this could be their death knell.  You go, gay activists!  I certainly won’t be drinking there again.  


    This is a much more encouraging result than the recent East End debacle which took place in reaction to the appearance of some anonymous homophobic stickers in that part of London.  I’ve been following this bizarre situation for a few months, and I’ll try to summarize:

    1)      Mid-February: Anti-gay stickers mysteriously appear in London’s heavily Muslim East End.  These declare a “gay-free zone” and proclaim: “Arise and warn. And fear Allah; Verily Allah is severe in punishment.”   Some believe the stickers were planted by far-right groups to foment discord between the gays and the Muslims in this part of London.

    2)      A day later: The Muslim Council of Britain, the East London Mosque, and the mayor of Tower Hamlets issue a joint statement condemning the stickers and reaffirming their belief in  equality

    3)      A few days later: Some pro-gay campaigners respond by removing the stickers and replacing them with ones that say “Love.”

    4)      Over the next few weeks: A bunch of gay journalists write various columns attacking the stickers, our tolerance towards Muslims, the far-right and each other.

    5)      March: East End Gay Pride plans to hold a march in early April to show solidarity against the stickers.

    6)      Mid-March: The East End Gay Pride team falls apart.  Imaan, a gay Muslim group, outs one of the EEGP organizers as a member of the far-right English Defence League.  Other pro-gay groups, OutEast and Rainbow Hamlets, accuse the EEGP of being a front for the far-right, and EEGP responds to these “personal vendettas” by cancelling the march.

    7)      April 4th: 30 people march anyway in a small East End Gay Pride demonstration.

    8)      Last week: An 18-year-old is arrested in connection with posting the original stickers.  It is unknown whether he is Muslim or far-right or any of the above.

    I bet you that 18-year-old is thinking he’s rather a genius.  All he has to do is design, produce and distribute a bunch of stickers anonymously and he’s somehow gotten the gay community in the East London to self-implode. 

    Is anyone else confused by all this?  I am.  So much subterfuge and splintering…  Who knew there were so many ways to be homophobic?  Or so many ways to be pro-gay? 

    For a movement that’s meant to be about including gays in the mainstream, there certainly is a lot of exclusivity going on in the community and in the way it organizes itself.  I don’t necessarily blame them for starting it.  Exclusivity breeds further exclusivity.  Everyone wants to mark their turf.    However, “further exclusivity” among the gay community does not really seem to be the way forward.  

    Hey, I have an idea: maybe G-A-Y Bar should print out stickers that say “Straight-Free Zone” and post them around its doors, and then 800 straight people can protest by —  Wait a second, on any given summer night, you can walk two blocks and find hundreds of straight people kissing in Leicester Square anyway.  Ho hum….

    But just to screw with everyone’s minds, I’m going to start a new club called S-T-R-A-I-G-H-T, invite all my gay friends over, and then when straight couples start kissing, tell them to go over and say:  “That’s obscene and you need to stop.”  But don’t worry: paraplegics of all sexual orientations would be most welcome.   In fact, they would even get a special VIP area all to themselves.

  7. Outposts from the West Highland Way – Start of Day 3

    April 3, 2011 by admin

    I was hiking along the eastern shore of Loch Lomond yesterday when my special Fag Hag Gaydar started going off. Coming towards me was a pair of men. The one on the left was maybe late 30s, pudgier, dark-haired, wearing a pink sweater. The one on the right, possibly a few years younger, was taller, skinny, with short-cropped blond hair, working the urban loungy look with a hooded sweatshirt and jeans. They were walking a small white Scottish terrier.

    This sighting remains unconfirmed, as we simply passed each other and said “Hi.” There wasn’t really any appropriate way for me to broach the subject of sexual orientation. That’s about as tactful as someone racing up to me and asking: “Wait, are you really Chinese? What are you doing in the Scottish Highlands?!”

    This pair would fall into the larger category of People Walking Their Dogs, whom I have encountered on the West Highland Way. Of the other category, People Actually Hiking the Entire West Highland Way, I have only met four other people: two separate father-and-son teams, one from Leeds and one from Lancashire. In both instances, the father seems to have dragged along a very reluctant son on the 95-mile journey. The son from Leeds is thirteen; the one from Lancashire looks to be in his mid-30s.

    Anyway, my right Achilles tendon is acting up, but there’s not much I can do about that. I have fourteen miles to hike today, all the way along the rest of Loch Lomond and on to Inverarnan. And um, have I mentioned it’s past 10:00 am and I haven’t started yet? This is all the fault of the fabulous B&B where I am staying (The Shepherd’s Rest), which offers WiFi, slippers and a robe. As I venture further into the Scottish Highlands, I may not encounter any more WiFi along the rest of my journey. Or possible gay men, for that matter. But you never know.

  8. Finding the Gay Ghetto: The Art of Travelling as a Fag Hag

    March 31, 2011 by admin


    This may be my last blog for a fortnight, as I’m currently on a 9-hour bus ride up to Glasgow to hike the West Highland Way on my own. (Yes, 9 hours, but the bus ride cost only £ 9, and I couldn’t resist). For those of you who don’t know, the West Highland Way is a 95-mile trail starting from outside Glasgow, and finishing in Fort William. On the way, it passes through some of the best scenery Scotland has to offer — you know, the kind of landscapes you see on shortbread tins and jigsaw puzzles.

    As a child living in suburban New Jersey, I was seduced by said shortbread tins and jigsaw puzzles and developed an unhealthy obsession with Scottish landscapes. Needless to say, the West Highland Way is something I’ve been wanting to do for years! I’m starting tomorrow from Milngavie and should finish in Fort William next Thursday night. I will probably have many blisters and calluses when I’m done.

    Some of you may also be thinking cynically: “Ha ha. Good luck being a fag hag for the next week!”  True. It’s one thing to surround yourself with gay men while in Vauxhall, London. It’s quite another to locate a single homosexual in the wilds of the Scottish Highlands. (I know, there’s this thing called Grindr, but I’m not on it — I don‘t think they have a special membership category for fag hags.)

    But here you may be surprised. As a travel addict, I’ve managed to find gay men in the most unlikely of places. And by that, I don’t mean an out-of-the-way clump of bushes on Hampstead Heath.

    Take for example, that time in the Summer of 2003 when I hiked another British long- distance trail on my own, the Pembrokeshire Coast Path. One day, after trekking along the stunning Welsh coastline in the August heat, I decided impulsively to hitchhike back to the town where I was staying. I stuck out my thumb — and who should pick me up but a friendly, chatty 50-something gay man who owned an art gallery in Fishguard. We had a lovely conversation, and I have to admit, I felt much more at ease as a female hitchhiker, having been picked up by a gay man.

    Then there was that time in Java, when I had to wake up at 2 am to watch the sunrise above Gunung Bromo, a semi-active volcano in the Tengger Massif. Half-asleep, I stumbled into a rusty, stripped-down 4×4 which was being driven at breakneck speed over a bumpy vertiginous road in the dark. (I noticed there was no ignition to the vehicle, and our Javanese driver had to start it each time by hotwiring.) The other people in the vehicle were a handful of backpacking Swedes, a couple of backpacking Irish, one Javanese medical student, and lo, and behold — a 60-year-old gay man from London! Of course, the gay man and I hit it off immediately. Later on, he and I decided to climb around the top of Bromo. So there I was at 5am, scrambling around the edge of an smoking volcano, sulfur clouds blowing into my face, and I’m asking this gay man: “So, what’s your favorite club in Vauxhall?” (It was the RVT, not Hoist.)

    Lesson being: homosexuals aren’t just in the beating, throbbing heart of metropolises like London, New York, and San Francisco. THEY’RE EVERYWHERE!!! As a responsible fag hag, you shouldn’t just hang out with that particular type of young urban gay male whom you find so stereotyped in the media. Gay men come in all shapes and sizes and ages, just like heterosexuals. (Though they often wear tighter shirts.) And as a traveling fag hag, you learn to find and befriend gay men from other cultures and places and age ranges. After all, isn’t that why we travel in the first place- to try to understand humanity in all its breadth?

    Now, the curse of being a travel addict is that you never have enough time to see all the places you’d like to visit. Or to explore all the gay communities you’d like to understand. Trekking through the hills of central Myanmar (Brutal Asian Dictatorship Also Known as Burma), our Sikh guide described a grand house we passed as being owned by “a man who wasn’t really a man.” “Ah, you mean a homosexual!” I exclaimed, though I would hardly describe any of my gay friends as “not really men.” I then asked if there was a lively gay community in Myanmar, and if so, where they tended to hang out. Our guide replied: “In hair salons.” (I guess some tendencies span many cultures.)

    I was fascinated, and if I’d had time, part of me would have loved to spend a day or two in Yangon, hunting down a local hair salon and interacting with the local gay men. I had so many questions. What was it like to be a homosexual man in Myanmar? Was there a particular party line from the ruling junta? Was the local culture particularly accepting of homosexuality?

    Alas, my last day in Yangon was spent convulsing from food poisoning, so my curiosity about Burmese homosexuality remained unsated. But that’s the thing about traveling around a lot – even when in a rush, you notice that out of the corner of your eye, there are active, lively gay communities all around the world.

    Last fall, I spent a few months in Qatar (one of the very few stable Arab nations at the moment). I went there thinking I might have to give up my fag hag lifestyle in the Arab world. But within five days of landing in Doha, I was invited to a party — and of course, the party was teeming with gay men, some Arab, some ex-pat, all very friendly.

    For a fag hag, it was like coming home. And that’s the thing about gay culture — there’s a certain inclusiveness about it which a straight person can be envious of. You can show up in many cities in the world, and after enough detective work, find the gay district. Personally, I don’t know if I would be accepted with open arms as a fag hag, but a gay man traveling from afar could wander into a gay bar in a foreign city and feel at home. And chances are, he would have a much easier time befriending a random stranger than any straight man wandering alone into any straight bar.  (Unless this straight man happened to look like George Clooney.)

    Perhaps these days, gay culture has much more sense of an inclusive community than in the heterosexual mainstream. We live in a day and age when our society by nature is itinerant, non-committal — people are always traveling, always on the go, changing jobs, breaking up, divorcing. When traditional community groups — family, church, even long-time places of work — are crumbling, maybe it’s the gays who have figured out how to offer a welcoming safe haven, like the roadside inns in days of yore. And for a traveler like me, that’s very appealing.

    So I’ll keep my eyes peeled for rainbow flags along the West Highland Way, in and among the breathtaking mountains and lochs. Many people have asked if I have some kind of internal fag hag magnet, like a built-in compass that points to “gay.” And if I do, I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. Let’s put it to the test in the Scottish Highlands


  9. The Fag Hag’s Dilemma

    March 20, 2011 by admin


    Apologies for my blogging absence.  Have been ill for a few weeks here in London…. Or maybe I’ve just started to fret too much about my disturbingly unbalanced social schedule as a fag hag.  Honestly, it’s starting to get unhealthy!  Take the last weekend of February, for example.  I looked at my calendar and realized in that single weekend I had five separate social engagements with various gay men:

    1. Friday night – Late-night at the Natural History Museum with “Patrick”
    2. Saturday, 1pm – Indoor rock-climbing with “Marcus”
    3. Saturday, 4pm – Coffee with “V”
    4. Sunday, 6pm – Drink with out-of-town gay man “Jacob”
    5. Sunday, 9pm until Monday, 5am – Watching the Oscars with my flatmate “Will”

    Ok, I did see a straight friend on Sunday for about 3 hours.  And the house where Will and I watched the Oscars is owned by a straight couple.  So that counts, too. 

    But other than that, it was just a packed weekend of gay gay gay.  Some flaming man-whores might even have trouble getting through five gay men in one weekend, but apparently it’s not a problem for me.   

    This begs the question: WHAT HAPPENED TO MY STRAIGHT FRIENDS?!!!   The fact is, they have abandoned me.   Only the gays are left.  I would like to clarify that I have not deliberately abandoned my straight friends.  But the sad truth is that by your early 30s, straights have fallen into two camps: the couples and the singletons, and never the twain shall meet.  Except awkwardly, at weddings.  

    Evidently, in your 30s you can’t just call up whomever and say “Hey, what are you up to tonight?  Let’s hang out” because everyone else’s social schedule has been couple-ized.   I feel like in our 20s everyone was just rolling around, looking for a crowd to hang out with, people to get drunk with, something to do.  “Hey, random dance party in a crumbling church in the East End.  Let’s go!”  “People I’ve never met before are doing vodka shots in the park tonight!  Let’s go!”  And now in our 30s…. well, everyone just wants to STAY IN and DRINK WINE.  

    Enough with the Staying In and Drinking Wine!  For someone who thrives on spontaneity, this is deadening.  Here’s a Note to All People in Couples:  On a Friday night, your single friends don’t really want to stay in and drink wine AGAIN.  They’re just being polite when they accompany you in this activity AGAIN. 

    There’s a whole goddam city out there full of things to do, to learn, to experience, new people to meet.  WHY Stay In and Drink Wine AGAIN?  I do that and I won’t be learning anything new, except for maybe what really pisses you off about his mother’s visits and why she needs to be more accommodating of your brother’s weird hang-ups, he’s just trying to give advice, and…. Argh!  This is not interesting!  If anything, it drives me even further from ever wanting to be in a couple!

    This is part of the reason why I’m a fag hag: Because all my straight friends have become couple-ized.  I still love them, but many of them seem to have lost their spontaneity, their will to meet new people and discover new scenes.   They seem to have gotten embroiled in the politics and hard work of being in a couple.  Ok, fine, many of my gay friends are now also in couples and increasingly prone to Staying In and Drinking Wine, but I seem to have less trouble getting them off the couch on a weekend night.   I’m not sure what causes the difference.  Maybe it has something to do with breeding and impending parenthood.   Settling down, nesting, losing interest in the outside world, whatever you want to call it.

     Yes, because shortly after the process of Couple-ization, there is Engagement, Marriage, and then, for many, Reproduction.   Ah, yes, starting a family.  It’s like Gremlins.  Once they start multiplying, the deadly process has begun.   Your friends with kids will never call you back.  Or stay out past 7pm.   Or get really, seriously shit-faced.   (Except awkwardly, at weddings.)

    This doesn’t mean they are any less fun.  Actually, I take that back.  Let’s be honest, they have become less fun.  But on the plus side, they’ve become mature responsible adults, and well on their way to extending human society for another generation.  In fact, this whole business of reproducing and raising families has been going on for millennia, since before the dawn of human civilization.  So why is it that reproducing seems like anathema to so many of us in our day and age?   What has happened to modern society to cause such a massive divide between the singletons and the couples, the breeders and the non-breeders?   *Whine*… why can’t we all just get along?

    Or perhaps there isn’t such a massive divide – we’re just imagining it.  But then I find myself on the couch guzzling Bottle No. 2 of merlot with yet another couple on a Friday night, and I know I’m not imagining it.  The divide is real.

    It’s not that I hate straight people.  I don’t.  I am a straight person, for god’s sake!   But I hate what often happens to straight people once they get in couples.   And now, other people being in couples has seriously skewed my social life.  Is that even fair?  The straight people have abandoned me, and  as a result, I am a fag hag.    

    I know, I know. Someone at this point will probably say: “Winnie, just you wait.  Someday you’ll meet the right guy and you, too, will lose all interest in the outside world and become boring and will only want to stay in and drink wine on the weekends.”   To which I will say: “Really?  Can’t fucking wait for that to happen.”

    Anyway , since I’m nowhere near ever meeting the right guy, that day is still very far off and I might as well continue in my rollicking rampage of faghagdom.  Pump up the ABBA!  Break out the pink champagne!   But — eek!  There is a Scary Disturbing Question hovering over the whole scene.  I ask myself, unwillingly: If I continue to sink even deeper into the life of a fag hag, if I surround myself further with gay men, will that greatly diminish my chances of ever meeting that one right straight guy?

    Ooh, sharp intake of breath. 

    And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the fag hag’s dilemma.

  10. And the Oscar goes to… The Person Playing the Homo: Are Gays the New Retards in the Oscar Acting Stakes?

    February 28, 2011 by admin

    It’s Oscar night, and Hollywood likes few things better than straight A-list actors portraying gay characters. It’s just shows off such versatility, such — such open-mindedness on the part of the acting community! Big ol’ self-congratulatory pat on the back, everyone!
    So this year, the race for Best Actress is all about lesbian roles. Will the Academy give the Best Actress award to Natalie Portman, for playing a beautiful, neurotic, fragile 20-something perfectionist ballerina with repressed lesbian fantasies, or Annette Bening, for her role as a grizzled, perfectionist, possibly alcoholic 40-something lesbian mom and surgeon with control issues? In Black Swan, we got to see Natalie and Mila Kunis make out in a frenzied passionate sex scene between two gorgeous ballerinas. In The Kids are All Right, we got to see Annette Bening and Julianne Moore try to get it on while watching gay male porn, and then fail, and then argue a lot, driving one to have an extramarital affair with a man.
    I’m guessing it’ll go to Natalie Portman. Hollywood will likely choose the lipstick lesbian fantasy over the grizzled reality. Is it shocking that the lipstick lesbian fantasy role was written and directed by a straight male, and the bitter reality lesbian role written and directed by a lesbian woman? Um, not really….

    Still, let’s call that progress of a sort. Twenty-seven years ago, Cher was nominated for her role as Meryl Streep’s lesbian roommate in Silkwood. She didn’t win, but since then, there has been a growing trend for straight actors and actresses to actually WIN the Oscar for portrayals of gay characters. This year, Colin Firth will likely win the Best Actor award for his performance as the stuttering British monarch, King George VI, in The King‘s Speech. George was straight, but the Academy also hasn’t forgotten Colin’s devastating Oscar-nominated performance last year as a gay suicidal English professor (also named George) in A Single Man. The year before THAT, many people thought Mickey Rourke should win the Best Actor award for his performance as a washed-up former wrestling champ in The Wrestler… but instead the award was nabbed by Sean Penn for portraying Harvey Milk, the openly gay and eventually assassinated San Francisco politician.

    And before that, let’s not forget previous Oscar-winning gay roles: Phillip Seymour Hoffman in 2005 for Capote, Hillary Swank in 1999 for Boys Don’t Cry, Tom Hanks in 1993 for Philadelphia….going all the way back to William Hurt in 1985 for Kiss of the Spider Woman. Not to mention the many other gay roles which have earned nominations and other critical acclaim, but not the actual Oscar (Felicity Huffman in Transamerica, anyone?) The 21st century has seen an explosion of Oscar-nominated homosexual roles in mainstream film… all of them played by straight actors, of course.

    So I think we can say: Gay roles are the new retards in the Oscar acting stakes. Dustin Hoffman playing an idiot savant in Rain Man? That’s so old school – you’re better off playing a homosexual if you want an Academy Award these days. Wanna up the stakes?  Try a combo.  As we all know, your chances of winning an Oscar increase if you portray:

    a) An ugly person

    b) A retard

    c) A Nazi, a Nazi sympathizer, a Holocaust survivor, or anyone who had anything to do with the Nazis

    d) A redneck or otherwise poor person with a Southern or Western accent

    e) A member of the British royalty

    f) A gay person!

    I’m not quite sure what it says about Hollywood that homosexuals, British royalty, rednecks, Nazis, ugly people, and retards are all in the same boat in terms of Oscar -worthiness. But try combining any of these categories and the Academy will sit up and notice you. It’s like applying for tax exemptions – the more boxes you can tick, the better.

    For example, Nicole Kidman hit A and F as Virginia Woolf (ugly-ish, bisexual) in The Hours in 2002. She won an Oscar . A year later, Charlize Theron ticked off A, D, and F when she portrayed Aileen Wuornos (ugly, redneck, and lesbian) in Monster. She also won an Oscar. And it almost worked for Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain. (He was D and F – a gay, poor cowboy.) But that year, the Oscar went to Phillip Seymour Hoffman anyway, for Capote.

    Unfortunately, Categories C,D, and E appear to be mutually exclusive — unless someone can dream up a character who is simultaneously a Southern redneck, a Holocaust survivor, and a member of the British royalty. (I‘m sure someone in Hollywood is currently working on it.)

    But how about… an ugly, retarded, lesbian Nazi? Wait a sec, Kate Winslet already won an Oscar for portraying an ugly-ish, illiterate, sexually deviant Nazi sympathizer in The Reader. Close enough, right? After all, you don’t want to run the risk of going full retard. Illiterate Nazi is good enough. Then how about…. An ugly, retarded, secretly gay member of the British royalty? Oscar GOLD written all over it! And screenwriters probably won’t have to look very far to find inspiration in real life…

    Of course, the good thing is that out of all these categories, Annette Bening this year only ticks off E, and Natalie Portman just barely qualifies as E. So maybe Hollywood is learning to appreciate a more subtle approach to gay characters. Or not. You never know with Hollywood.

    Some people might point out that the larger issue is not that these gay roles are being written, but that they are still being played by straight actors. After all, won’t there be a day when the gay roles can be played by (openly) gay actors? Mmm… well, yes, that‘s a nice thought. But unfortunately Hollywood’s A-list actors tend not to be openly gay. And you can blame that on a whole variety of factors, one of which might beg the question: Can an actor make it to the Hollywood A-list if he or she is openly gay? (Jodie Foster came out long after she won her two Oscars.)

    Then there’s the argument that acting is about convincingly portraying something which you are not. So if you’re actually gay and playing a gay character, then you’re not really acting. This is a rather dumb argument. You might as well say that if you’re black and playing a black character, then you’re not really acting. Ah, but if you’re straight and playing a gay character, that’s gotta be more of a challenge than if you’re a gay playing a gay, right? Um….

    My secret, rather silly theory is that the Hollywood establishment is making it difficult for openly gay actors to succeed because otherwise, what kind of juicy roles would be available for straight actors to play and win Oscars for? It’s not politically correct any more to black yourself up and play a different race (although did anyone else notice that the Indian character in The Social Network was played by a white actor?), but thankfully, it is still politically correct to play a different sexual orientation. And therein lies a treasure trove of possible acting Oscars.

    But once we draw the line at sexual orientation, IS NOTHING SACRED?! Then you might as well say that only real rednecks can play rednecks, only real retards can play retards, and only real ugly people can play ugly characters. And Hollywood doesn’t allow real ugly people on screen. If you go further and say that only real members of the British royalty can play members of the British royalty, then you might as well pull up a few chairs in front of a wall and ask the public to watch this lovely white paint dry. There’s a reason people pay to see Colin Firth and Helen Mirren portray British royals – because they’re infinitely more interesting to watch than any real-life members of the House of Windsor.

    It’s the movies, after all. It’s artifice, but it’s meant to be entertaining and touching and hopefully thought-provoking. So at the moment, let’s just say whomever can deliver the best performance, regardless of sexual orientation, is the right actor for the role (and also has the cache to pull in the rest of the finance and get the project green-lit, but never mind that for the time being…) So I’m not sure where this rant got me. You might say it’s a delicate balance. On one hand, yes, I wish the commercial film industry was more encouraging for actors to be openly gay. On the other hand, I really want to see a movie about an ugly gay retarded Nazi who goes into hiding in the Louisiana swamps only to find out he’s an illegitimate relative of British royalty. And somehow, I don’t think we’ll be able to cast an actual gay, retarded, ugly, Nazi, etc actor for that role. We’ll have to settle for a straight, liberal-minded, A-list actor with Oscar aspirations. Damn.