Comment: Pride is not the only sin
On Saturday, World Pride’s big event in London went ahead, amid a well-documented furore over its lapse from promised global spectacle to seeming chaos and lamentable confusion.
There were no big name headliners except someone named Deborah Cox whose fame everybody had to Google, various stories of bad organisation within the Pride committee and if the event were a battered body teetering on the edge of a cliff by the start of last week, the city authorities firmly had delivered the final kick into the abyss by decreeing that there would be be no partying on the streets this year.
Predictably, PinkNews.co.uk’s comment section has been awash with opinion pieces upon the modern concept of what Pride stands for, ranging from Topher Gen’s attack on the entire march as a mere drunken corporate symbol to Nicholas Chinardet’s defence that it is a ‘moment of affirmation and empowerment’.
But affirmation and empowerment of what exactly? What are we proud of? Our sexualities? Not for everyone. For, if we’re honest, Pride does not include everybody of a homosexual persuasion. It includes anybody who is gay but increasingly, whilst gay always means homosexual, homosexual does not necessarily mean gay.
Gay culture has developed its own ethos that is quite rigidly set in place. You will be a fan of at least one female pop singer, any one is fine as long as she’s pretty and doesn’t write her own lyrics. Pink is your colour of choice. Preoccupation with self-image is encouraged, the photograph is elevated to a near religious symbol. Albeit religious symbols are worshipped because of an alleged meaning attached to their existence, whereas in gay culture the photograph is idolised simply for the image itself, a peculiarity not witnessed in any other community in the world’s history.
Evidently even to write these sentences in the first place is purporting the very stereotype they encapsulate. Not everyone is like this.
But there is enough evidence available on the scene in London to feel that there is a particular identity of ‘gay’ that men are encouraged to abide by when they come out and start going out on the scene. It is the music in the bars, it is the posters on the walls, it is the clothes that are worn and the hairs that are cut, bleached or waxed.
Some people are the energetic enforcers of this concept, others simply go with the flow. But if a boy of homosexual persuasion felt different and an outsider because of his sexuality at school, then it is the inevitable conclusion he must conform to this identity not to feel different and an outsider in the very community he turns to for acceptance.
And for a community that has emerged fighting for the virtues of acceptance and tolerance, the gay scene can be surprisingly harsh and judgemental in what cultural mores it does or doesn’t allow.
Bands with guitars are generally feared and hated, rock music stems from the devil’s fingers. Those in Soho view those in Vauxhall as hopeless druggies, those in Vauxhall view those in Soho as effeminate silhouettes. Unhappiness and anything that reminds one unnecessarily of its existence is to be exterminated, whether through the pursuit of narcotic bliss or determined self-censorship. Reading as a hobby, particularly amongst the younger generations, is inconceivable.
Perhaps then it is not surprising that more young men of a homosexual persuasion are choosing to hide their sexualities. Paradoxically the freedom and openness of the contemporary LGBT gay scene is creating an identity that offers little to those whose lives revolve around ‘straight’ identities.
This is not to say that liking pop music is wrong, this is not to say that finding inspiration in Madonna or Rihanna or Kris Van Assche is wrong, this is not even to say that going out at the weekend and spending three days without sleep on a kaleidoscopic cocktail of recreational drugs is wrong, but to purport it as what being gay means is wrong.
And the trouble is it is not only gay culture that purports their own stereotype, it is mainstream culture that takes this idea of a gay identity as set in stone and spreads it further.
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In every television programme where the token gay best friend of a female protagonist arrives waving shopping bags and offering acerbic wit based solely in nastiness, this idea is instigated further into the national consciousness. In adverts where gay characters are differentiated by effeminacy, by the addition of a lisp or wearing pink clothes, the nails are hammered further into the coffin enclosing an open mind.
You will find on cruising websites many homosexual young men who describe themselves as ‘men who have sex with men’, avoiding the tag ‘gay’.
I personally know some of these boys, who would rather continue with their straight identities, one or two of whom have girlfriends, than become part of a culture that is not theirs and, in their eyes, does not want to include them. We live in the second most liberal time in history for its attitudes towards homosexuality and it appears that gay culture itself may be excluding a silent minority (or, who knows, a majority) by virtue of its voice.
The second most liberal time in recent world history, the first being the age of the Ancient Greeks, of Sparta and the Sacred Band of Thebes. Yet the difference is that in those days homosexuality was associated with chivalry, with truth and bravery and honour, that two men together would make an unbeatable team to fight for what they believed in.
Perhaps it is not just the gay scene that emphasises superficiality, a lack of interest in world events, a general apathetic ignorance; perhaps it is instead contemporary culture as a whole with its recycling of talent show winners, and the gay scene is merely one facet of that dull diamond.
But you know, we could still lead society as a community in showing ourselves as true and brave and honourable, and dispensing with the shallow stereotypes we both surround ourselves with and are attached to us by others.
And that would be something to be truly proud of.
Patrick Cash is a freelance journalist, creative writer and arts/culture reviewer. A selection of his previously published work can be found at patrickcashjournalist.tumblr.com. He tweets from @PaddyCash.