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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. 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


  5. Valentine’s Day Edition: Amsterdam, Gay Politicians, and Tolerance for PDA

    February 14, 2011 by admin


    On a recent weekend trip to Amsterdam, I figured a responsible fag hag like me should swing by something called the Homomonument.  Located amidst the picturesque canal-front homes of the Keizersgracht,  the Homomonument is a subtle, barely noticeable collection of three stone triangles, one flush with the surface of the sidewalk, one slightly raised above the ground, one jutting into the nearby canal.  I nearly missed it when I wandered past.

    What, you were expecting something gaudy and garish, with flashing pink lights, mirror balls, and a recording of Barbra Streisand belting out showtunes as you walk over it?   

    Ok, fine:  the triangles are made out of pink granite.   But that’s about as camp as the Homomonument gets.

    The fact is, gays can be subtle when they need to be, and the Homomonument is appropriately subtle, given its somber significance.  The official placard reads:

     “The objective of the monument was two-fold: to serve as a memorial for the gay men and women who were persecuted and killed in the Second World War, and as a source of inspiration for gay men and women who ‘continue to suffer persecution today.’”

    Under the Third Reich, roughly 100,000 men were arrested in Germany for being homosexual, and up to 15,000 of them were sent to concentration camps, where they were subjected to hard labor and medical experimentation  (read: castration).  In the concentration camps, homosexuals were forced to wear pink triangle badges — a symbol and color which the gay community has since appropriated to mark a collective gay pride.

    In fact, right next to the Homomonument stands the Pink Point, a free information booth about gay and lesbian life in Amsterdam.  The Pink Point waves a rainbow flag from its roof, and right behind it looms the Westerkerk, the largest and one of the oldest Protestant churches in Holland, opened in 1631.   And there you have an example of Amsterdam’s legendary social tolerance:  the Church and the gay community co-existing peacefully, side by side.

    Stepping back from the explanation of the Homomonument, I noticed it was flanked by a poster for The Torture Museum, advertising a “Medieval Exhibition:  Punishment and Instruments.”  Hmmm…  so in one image, we had the Church, medieval instruments of punishment, and a memorial commemorating the persecution, torture, and killing of homosexuals by the Nazis…  You could have one heck of a BDSM fetish club right here, next to the Keizersgracht.  


    But that’s what I love about Amsterdam.  It’s a city which does not shy away from the sorts of unexpected juxtapositions crowding our contemporary, liberal world – religion, gays, medieval torture, Holocaust memorials, all next to each other.   

    In another part of town, the infamous red light district, the 14th-century Oude Kerk (Old Church) rang its 2:00pm bells just as I walked past.  On the other side of me, directly opposite the church, the lit windows of a brothel displayed a few bored-looking prostitutes .   I accidentally made eye contact with one of them, but I don’t think I was her target clientele….  (Like most red-light districts, the one in Amsterdam is largely male-oriented.)   

    But this is a country where prostitution was legalized in 1988, brothels in 2000, and gay marriage in 2001. It seems odd for me to even group gay marriage in the same category as prostitution,  but I guess by the standards of “normal” straight society, both fall into the seamy classification of “deviant sexuality.”

    This is also a country whose most influential right-wing politician in 2002 was openly gay.  I repeat: its most influential right-wing politician was a faggot.  Could you ever see that happening in the United States?  Pim Fortuyn rode to popularity on his anti-immigration, strongly anti-Muslim viewpoints.   The fact that he was even able to gather a socially conservative following despite being gay speaks miles about how advanced Dutch society is in terms of homosexual tolerance.  (Multicultural tolerance is another matter, given how popular Fortuyn’s anti-Muslim policies were.)  

    Pim Fortuyn was later assassinated in 2002 by a man who was a vegan animal rights activist.  He killed Fortuyn not because Fortuyn was gay but because he was arguably racist.  Now that’s what I call progressive.  

    What I mean is that in Holland, you don’t have vegans, feminists, gay rights activists, and multicultural activists all grouped together under the same pan-liberal banner.    They’ve advanced to the point where being publicly gay isn’t even a political issue anymore.   In the US, there are Republicans like Fred Karger, who is openly gay and launching a bid for the presidency.   But his chances are slim, since the Republican establishment is, um, not very gay rights-friendly.  But heck – even Barack Obama defines marriage as strictly heterosexual, even though he advocates same-sex civil unions with all the same benefits as a straight marriage.    

    Here in the UK, the same hetero definition of marriage still legally stands, although gay civil partnerships have been recognized since 2005.  Just yesterday, it was announced that the British government would work towards enabling gay civil partnership ceremonies to take place in religious settings.  Perhaps this will one day pave the way towards gay marriage in the UK… 


    But enough about politics.  One of my gay friends, “V,” explains that in Amsterdam, he feels much more comfortable with Public Displays of Affection (PDA) than in London.  Really?   This prompted me to run an informal poll amongst my gay Londoner friends: “Would you feel comfortable holding your partner’s hand in public in ALL parts of London?”  Answers ranged from “Not really” to “No!” to “OMG I’ve had beer bottles thrown at me in Bermondsey.”

    And it’s true.   A few years ago,  “V” and his boyfriend were holding hands in a popular pub in Piccadilly Circus.   Eventually, the bouncer came up to them and said: “I’ve had complaints that you’re making people uncomfortable, so I’ll have to ask you to leave.”

    Really?  In 21st century London?  Christ, if they did that to all straight couples holding hands, they’d be out of business.  

    Now that just strikes me as sad.  And rather hypocritical, because I’ve seen straight couples shoving their tongues down each other’s throats on the Underground and nobody seems to bat an eye.

    In contrast, I’d like to bring up the shocking story of Ian Baynham, a 62-year-old gay man, beaten to death in Trafalgar Square by drunk teenage girls.  They saw him holding hands with his partner and began to hurl homophobic abuse at him.  When their friend knocked him to the ground, the two girls, aged 18 and 19 at the time, kicked and stomped on Ian’s head and chest.  He died later of brain damage.   

    This took place in 2009, in the touristy heart of London.  I know the Third Reich was over fifty years ago, but those drunk English teenagers would have been prime candidates for the Nazi Youth.    Yes, we can all agree the Nazis were evil  and today’s current European governments  much more accepting of homosexuality, but it seems the public still has far to go in terms of tolerance.   The Metropolitan Police believe homophobic attacks are on the rise in London.  And gay civil unions may be legal, but if gay couples still get attacked in central London for holding hands in public, how tolerant are we really?

    I’d like to highlight the irony of all this on Valentine’s Day, a day when we’re all encouraged / brainwashed to publicly show our affection for our romantic partners.  In the same way that the Third Reich pushed a conformist love of the Aryan nation, retailers around Valentine’s Day push a conformist purchasing of champagne, chocolates, jewelry, expensive dinners, and tacky stuffed animals bearing unoriginal messages.   You WILL spend money on the one you love!!!, shout the Valentine’s Day Nazis.  You WILL gaze lovingly into each other’s eyes!!!  You WILL hold hands in public!!!!

    That is, of course, unless you’re gay.  Straight PDA is generally expected on Valentine’s Day.  Gay PDA is another matter.

    “It’s just hard to be romantic in public,” “V” says. “When other people start reacting weirdly to seeing an openly gay couple.  You want it to just be personal, between you and your boyfriend, but every public display of affection become politicized.”

    So yes, as I wrote in Paragraph Four, gays can be subtle when they need to be.  Often my gay friends feel they need to be subtle in showing their love for each other, even if they’ve been married for years, even if the straight couple next to them can get away with public handholding, kissing, and more.   I’m hoping Valentine’s Day might be a bit of an amnesty,  a day when we can strive to be more tolerant of romantic love in all forms, even while we’re hemmorhaging stupid amounts of money on gifts and dining out.  The one day in the calendar year when both straight and gay couples can get away with public displays of affection and not worry about getting kicked in the head by drunken teenagers.   

    Then again, on Valentine’s Day, all the disgusted single people might stage a mass revolt and start thrashing all the couples.  I find that concept rather satisfying….  Wait, did I say that?  I think I need to get myself to Amsterdam again.   After all, as a single person, I too must learn to be tolerant of couples.   Especially on Valentine’s Day.

  6. San Francisco: Cat Allergies and Black Swans

    January 17, 2011 by admin


    Over New Years, I was in San Francisco for a week.  I had the choice of staying with a straight couple with cats or a gay couple with a dog.  I opted for the straight cat-owners, who live in the hip-but-affordable area of the city known as “the Mission.”   By the end of trip, I had moved in with the homosexual dog-owners. 

    The truth is, I am horribly allergic to cats.  This in NO WAY MEANS that I, a fag hag, am also allergic to the straight coupled lifestyle.  Although, well, maybe — ahem…. Sorry, what was I saying? 

    But yes, I am genetically pre-dispositioned to sneeze when I am near cats, just as I am genetically predispositioned to HATE CILANTRO because it is EVIL.  (For you Brits, cilantro = coriander.)  And so after three days and nights of watery eyes and non-stop sneezing, I had to move in with a lovely gay couple and their fabulous rescue dog.

    Now on the last day of 2010, I accompanied my cat-owning friend and her boyfriend to one of those fashionable San Francisco boutique bike shops in the Mission, where can you mix and match the various colored parts of your very own made-to-order designer bike.  While they spent the better part of an hour designing a mock-up of a $1300 bike, I wandered into the curious store next door, which prides itself in selling a “nostalgic assortment of Toys and Games inspired by the Natural World and the Pre-digital era.” 

    This strikes me as an odd niche to specialize in.  As honorable as its intentions, I doubt how much a nine-year-old will appreciate his very own nostalgic Victorian wind-up monkey when all his friends are virtual-jetskiing on their Wii systems.  But maybe in San Francisco.

    Curiouser yet was the “vegan taxidermy” on display at the front of the store.  The creator of said vegan taxidermy had somehow used plant materials to build very lifelike models of extinct birds, such as the dodo, the passenger pigeon, etc. Placards explained the sad demise of each species of bird, no doubt providing a poignant commentary on the role we wicked humans play in sealing the fate of other animal species through our wasteful consumption and pollution.

    However, there was one bird species on display which had not yet become extinct.  This was the black swan.   Here I found a rather bizarre placard:

    “An estimated one-quarter of all pairings are homosexual, mostly between males.  They steal nests, or form temporary threesomes with females to obtain eggs, driving away the female after she lays the eggs.”

    What?!   When I first saw this, I had to make sure I wasn’t tripping.  (It was San Francisco, after all.)  Initially, I wondered if there was a homophobic subtext to this placard, as if to say: “Watch out for gay couples.  They will try to steal your kids.”   But wait — it was San Francisco, after all.  So more likely the store owner, vegan taxidermist, and clientele would be gay or gay-friendly.

    In which case, these foregrounded details on the black swan lifestyle had a different purpose.   As if to say: “See, look, homosexual behavior occurs in nature too!  And if they could, gay black swan couples would also try to hire a surrogate mother… only they can’t, so they just have threesomes and scare the woman away afterwards.”

    Some scientists believe that the off-spring of homosexual black swan couples survive better than those of heterosexual pairings.  And black swans are only one in hundreds of animal species which demonstrate homosexual behavior.  Others include sheep (easily impressionable), dolphins (see, look, intelligent!), lions (virile!), and of course, our highly-sexed fellow primates, the bonobos (will sleep with anything!).  There are a number of scientific books on homosexual behavior in animals, and one such book was even cited in a legal brief submitted to the US Supreme Court in the Lawrence v. Texas case in 2003, as evidence that homosexuality is not, in fact, “a sin against nature.”  As a result of that case, sodomy laws were eventually struck down in Texas and 13 other states.  So score one for the homosexuals!

    However, anti-gay rights groups often easily turn that argument around and claim that because homosexual behavior occurs in the animal world, this is proof that homosexuality is animalistic, and therefore un-befitting of humans. Score one for the homophobes! 

    Now to take things further, I’ll also mention the current film Black Swan by the indie wunderkind Darren Aronofsky. I’ve seen it, and since this is not a movie column, I’m not going to review it right here.  But there is of course a homosexual undercurrent running throughout the film, culminating in a notorious lesbian make-out scene between rival ballerinas Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis.  (Steady now, straight male readers.)

    Maybe this scene was only there for titillation, a sort of arthouse “Girls Gone Wild” masquerading under Freudian psychodrama.  But in the context of the film, this scene is  Natalie Portman’s repressed fantasy, so deeply has she hidden her (homo)sexual desires in her strict, disciplined lifestyle as a perfectionist ballerina.  According to pervy-but-French ballet master Vincent Cassel, it is these desires which she needs to embrace if she wants to successfully dance the role of the evil seductive Black Swan on stage.

    Black Swan lays on the dualities very thick.  It’s full of doppelgangers, evil twins, mirrors, all that stuff.  White Swan is virginal, timid, innocent Natalie Portman.  Black Swan is sexy, confident, tattooed Mila Kunis (whose character comes from crazy, experimental San Francisco).  By the end of the movie, Natalie Portman’s increasingly psychotic character has sprouted black swan wings and taken metaphorical flight.

    Has she become evil?  Has she become sexual?  Has she become homosexual?  Will she try to steal an egg from a straight couple and raise it as her own perfect little anorexic ballerina?

    I don’t think the film is so reductionist as to claim that Black Swan = evil = homosexual.  This is Aronofsky, not Palin, after all.  But the concept of his Black Swan is about embracing sexuality, and perhaps accepting those instinctive drives which were so drummed out by hours of sadistic ballet training or any kind of disciplined, repressive socialization.  

    In which case we can conclude….homosexual behavior is naturally occurring among classical ballerinas!  And Navy recruits!  But it is, too, among prison inmates!  And dog-owners!

    In fact, it’s everywhere!  Whether you repress it or not!  So the homophobes will just have to learn to live with that. 

    Most San Franciscans these days have learned to live with that.  And realized that homosexuality is perfectly natural.  In fact, as natural as being allergic to cats.   Is it a sin against nature to be allergic to cats, to be genetically pre-dispositioned to sneeze around cats, the way some boys are genetically pre-dispositioned to get hard around other boys?  Of course not. 

    Now, I’ll tell you what’s a sin against nature.  CILANTRO.  That shit is evil.