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‘Gays and Straights’ Category

  1. 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.

  2. (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.

  3. 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.

  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. 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.

  6. 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.




  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. A blog as gay as Christmas…

    December 26, 2010 by admin

    I thought this might be an appropriate time of year to finally launch my blog on being a fag hag, given the popularity of the phrase “as gay as Christmas.”  You may also know the common variant “as camp as Christmas.”  Though by implication, the two phrases mean virtually the same thing. As in, “Oh my god, Ryan Seacrest.  He’s as camp as Christmas.”  (He is.  Don’t deny it.  It‘s in the OED.)

    So in this equation: 

    Christmas  =  fun glittery stuff, merrymaking, good cheer  =  gay men

    (Apologies to the lesbians, this equation probably implies gay men, not women.)

    There is some truth to this coarse piece of pop cultural algebra.  For example, I’d be hard-pressed to find a bar in London which does Christmas better than The Yard , a popular gay watering-hole in Soho.  (Watering-hole… good word choice.)   The Yard is — in a word — fabulous.   You have your usual twinkling Christmas lights and fake, cottony snow and random branches of evergreen sticking out of the wall to recreate a wintry forest glade (read: elves, reindeer, sleigh bells).  And yes, the seasonal beverage menu includes the mulled wine and rum-spiked cocoa and other such delights for the festive alcoholic.  And because it’s a gay establishment, you don’t encounter the raucous drunken louts or the over-mascaraed short-skirted floozies who make you lament being in a straight bar.  Instead, as the gold star at the top of the tree, you have the ueber-virile bartenders: tall, bare-chested, muscular men, wearing either regulation Russian fur hats or plush reindeer horns.

    Now that, my dear, is camp as Christmas.

    But there is some irony to the phrase, given that the holiday of Christmas is a mainstay for heterosexual, reproducing families, church, God, etc.  In fact, what would the devout Christian right have to say about the phrase “gay as Christmas”?   Is it sacrilege to compare the holy birth of our Saviour with a way of life which is immoral, unnatural, impure?   You could say this phrase is the worst possible insult to the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ.  But then you would have to retract that statement when you remembered Mariah Carey’s Merry Christmas II You album, which some sixteen-year-old demanded you buy her to celebrate Jesus’ birthday.


    I think the phrase “gay as Christmas” is rather a good one because it emphasizes all the positive aspects of this holiday — and many of the positive aspects of the gay stereotype.  For once, being camp — or gay — isn’t necessary perjorative, or frowned upon.  It’s joyous, it’s full of life and light and celebration.  For once, it’s part of the mainstream, the accepted holiday which you see blazoned all over the place in sparkling letters.  

    So in this equation, being gay is as mainstream as Christmas — and being straight is, well, the other side, the not-Christmas. 

    In which case, I want in! …If only for a day.  The Little Match Girl with her face pressed up against the cold window, looking in on this fabulous party, amidst the winter of straight discontent.  Think of me as that Jewish kid who always wanted to celebrate Christmas because it seemed so much more fun than the dreidels and the latkes and the muttering in Hebrew.   Don’t get me wrong – I don’t deny who I am. I’m straight, I can hang with straight people, I’ll hopefully marry within my Tribe one day. 

    But oh, to be part of that glittery kind of Christmas  – the sparkling wit and high spirits and the perfect sculpted men in the plush reindeer horns who just want to provide amusing, respectful, gorgeous company.   That, of course, is the universal dilemma of the fag hag.

    So enjoy Christmas when it rolls around… wherever you are, with or without family, with or without friends who count as family.  After all, Christmas is supposedly about love and acceptance and understanding.  And it’s the one time all year when you can get away with being unabashedly camp.  That goes for you Jews and non-believers in the audience, too!