Despite my best efforts to avoid it, I was artfully dragged into a gay nightclub at the weekend. I somehow managed to stay for a record 1 hour and 20 minutes before I had to leave, and now I’m wondering what it was that prompted me to go in the first place. I seem quite unable to enjoy myself in NG1 and yet at the same time, I feel compelled to go anyway. Much like the homos of the 1950s who felt guilty for being gay, I feel guilty about not being gay enough. I seem to have a tragic belief that fucking men isn’t enough, and that by spending my pink pounds in a mediocre gay club I will somehow validate my gay identity.
I want to spend some time detailing what I don’t like about the provincial gay commercial scene (henceforth referred to as ‘the scene’) and why I don’t do it. Let’s start at the beginning:
When I was 14 and started to masturbate—or what is euphemistically known as ‘coming of age’—I noticed that no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t bring myself off to pictures of Pamela Anderson. For reasons still unbeknown to me, David Hasselhoff in his red Speedos always seemed to do for me.
At this age I was presented with a choice: either have a sham marriage, have the kids and the wife, and aspire to all the stuff our society teaches us is important, or to go against the grain, to rewrite the rules, and to accept who I am.
Being gay, at least for me, taught me the self-confidence to live a lifestyle consummate with who I am, and not pretend to be someone I’m not. It’s very easy to follow the herd, but once you’ve defied it once, it’s easier to do again.
Perhaps the most interesting thing for me about gaylife is that anyone- be they male, female, Black, disable, affluent, 50+, or whatever- can be a homo, and the only thing all gay folks have in common is an erotic attraction towards members of their own sex. This, and the willingness of homos to rewrite societal rules, are the two things I love most about being gay, and about gay people in general
As you’d expect, the gay scene reflects this diversity and welcomes anyone regardless of their age, race or gender, and offers an environment in which people are free to express themselves.
No! no! no! It doesn’t, and that’s part of the reason I’m not keen on it.
A few people criticise the scene for being too ‘cliquey’ and bitchy. I’ve never quite understood this; the scene’s cliquiness is more fraternal than anything else, and its bitchiness is rarely overt. My problem is more with its blandness and uniformity. I feel very uncomfortable in a gay place where there isn’t at least one married toothless simpleton in the toilets offering chewjobs or a few cross-dressing middle-aged men in suspenders.
At the root of my objection is the implicit understanding on the scene as to what constitutes a proper gay identity, and the derision folks who differ from these unwritten rules are subjected to. I know lesbians, ‘mature’ men, people of colour, and folks who’d like to cross-dress- they’d all like to out on the scene but feel uncomfortable to do so. In short, they feel marginalised by the one place where they should feel comfortable.
Being White, 23 and depressingly vanilla, I’m largely unaffected by these unwritten rules, but this demand for convention and uniformity is something I’m always conscious of and find oppressive. I’d like to feel comfortable going up to the DJ in NG1 and asking for ‘Don’t Go Home With Your Hard On” by Leonard Cohen, as I have in Duckies, but I know full well that I’d receive nothing but a sound beating around the head with a rolled-up copy of Boyz Magazine.
This lack of individuality and demand for convention has always reminded of Last of the Proms:
For those that don’t know, The Last Night of the Proms are a series of concerts with a ‘patriotic’ component held at London’s Royal Albert Hall. It’s classless and crass, and millions of Britons watch it on television each year. The audience adorn themselves in patriotic tat, such as Union Jack hats and novelty polyester ties, and sing songs about Britain’s greatness whilst waving plastic flags. Britain’s empire may lie in ruins but for one night only the attendees can forget all this and pretend that Britannia still rules the waves, and like the Nuremberg rallies of the Nazi era, they too can validate their national identity in this pathetic, jingoistic attempt to manufacture a sense of belonging.
The provincial commercial gay scene, at least for me, isn’t any different from the Last Night of the Proms. Novelty Union Jack hats and God Save the Queen may give way to 2(x)ist underwear and Kylie songs but the essential properties of groupthink, blandness, uniformity, and identity validation are all there.
(and can someone answer me this- why do scene guys shave the pubic hair above their penis? Is it to make it look bigger?)
Whilst it’s easy to sneer at Last Night of the Proms or the provincial gay scene, I’m really glad these places exist and hope people enjoy themselves, but for me these two things are nausea-inducing. I don’t enjoy it and it’s not part of who I am, much in the same way as jacking off over Pamela Anderson isn’t me either. Instead of following the herd and doing what’s expected of me, I would like to go against the grain and live a life that fits who I am, not what I’m expected to be. Whilst I don’t expect all gay people to understand this, I do ask them to respect my lifestyle choices in the same way as I respect theirs.
Whilst I generally opt out, I am still concerned about where this homogenisation will end. A friend tells a funny story about how he was walking down Manchester’s Canal Street when he saw a group of gay men line-dancing in unison to a Steps song. Eventually gay culture will become more like this, and soon it will have as many rules about sexuality and individuality as straight culture. Straight folks are already catching up and will soon overtake us- swinging, dogging and internet dating sites are all taking off, and they’re developing the ‘piss and vinegar’ we’ve exchanged for pink pounds. Soon there will come a time when they’ll start Straightdar.co.uk, and the straights will celebrate their sexual uniqueness in sleazy bars, whilst the gays dance in unison to Kylie Minogue songs.
Mark my words: When that time comes– when everything I like about being gay has been sold, and straights become more interesting than gays– I’ll start füçking women instead.