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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. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  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.