A friend yesterday drew my attention to an article in The Sun (a so-called ‘newspaper’ which I would never buy, and once tore up in disgust. It is sad that this rightwing jingoistic tabloid was re-born from the once leftwing Daily Herald.)
The article had a photo of David Beckham posing naked in bed apart from a pair of Armani briefs, which he was apparently advertising. The text of the article, by a gay reporter, was about using his ‘gaydar’, the sixth sense by which gay men recognize each other, to work out whether Beckham was to quote The Sun ‘batting for the other side’. This presumably didn’t mean Beckham had passed away and had joined a cricket team in the Spirit world.
Of course the last paragraphs of the article had to make clear, for legal reasons and probably for accuracy, that David Beckham wasn’t gay or bisexual, despite all the so-called signs to the contrary which the reporter brought up in the article.
After complaining about ‘gay stereotyping’ for years, with some gays upset by ‘camp’ celebrities such as John Inman and Larry Grayson, the gay community seems to be doing an excellent job of stereotyping themselves. I have to comment that few of my gay friends fit this ’stereotype’ at all.
The ‘official’ gay stereotypes nowadays, fully sanctioned by the gay press, etc., are not ‘camp’ but usually display an ultra-macho image. They are supposed to spend a fortune on personal grooming such as expensive after-shave and other cosmetic products, and wear designer label clothes in the latest fashions. They are all supposed to love house and similar types of disco music, and worship certain ‘gay icons’ like Kylie Monogue, and Judy Garland for the older generations. No gay man is supposed to have a haircut longer than a #1, or at a pinch, a #2, but a few teenage or young twenties ‘freaks’ with long hair can get away with it - just. Every gay man over 25 must shave their heads and try to look like an old lag just out of Wandsworth Prison who has shagged every man in the clink.
This shaved head look, by the way, makes every man over this age easily recognizable as a ‘gay’ even by straights. It is also extremely boring when gay venues are full of guys with shaved heads or #1 cuts, and makes me wonder why, if they love this image so much, they don’t just all stay at home and admire themselves in the mirror! They all look just the same anyway - the so-called latest gay ‘clone’ look. Once it was all mustaches and checked shirts, now it’s shaved heads.
Another gay stereotype is the ‘bear look’. These are overweight guys, often wearing face jewelry, who sport beards and/or mustaches but who, of course, have shaved heads.
Few of my gay and bisexual friends fit any of these stereotypes. Some of us are far from fastidious about our appearance, shopping at cheap outlets like Primark and market stalls, or even charity shops, for our underwear and clothes. Some of us go around looking rather scruffy, others are smart but don’t fit any of the gay images. And even if we have the money, and some of us don’t, why should we spend it on designer labels and expensive cosmetic products, haircuts, etc. if we don’t want to? As to our music tastes, few of us like house music or any of the so-called ‘gay icons’. We are into different types of music such as classical, Blues, Country, rockabilly, 1950s rock’n'roll, etc. We hate bloody ‘house’ music!
Very few of my gay friends have shaved heads or a #1 cut, or wear the latest fashions in clothes and male cosmetics. That gay ’stereotype’ is promoted by the trendy gay clubs and the gay press, and in my book amounts to Gay Fascism.
This is a strong term to use, but I believe it is justified when gay/bisexual men who don’t fit this latest gay ’stereotype’ image dictated by the gay press are ostracized and made to feel they are not wanted by the gay community, and don’t belong.
One gay friend who has longish hair, overheard a remark in a gay club that ‘guys with hair like that’ shouldn’t be allowed in. I myself heard a remark about ‘that guy with the awful haircut’ in a gay sauna, which could well have applied to me, since I was the only one in there without a shaved head/#1 cut. A bouncer outside a gay West End pub tried to refuse entry to myself and a bisexual friend because ‘we didn’t look gay enough’. This was a reference, presumably, to our clothes, his long hair and my Brylcreemed Rocker quiff. For Heaven’s sake, we were trying to give the silly queens inside a bit of exotic variety in their dull, boring lives. We should have been welcomed with open arms!
But no, if you don’t fit the latest gay image, or rather one of them, you will be all but ignored in gay clubs and bars. You will be made to feel you don’t belong, and are not really welcome.
There is also a lot of age-ism on the gay scene. So us older guys in our 50s, 60s and older are also ostracized unless, and this is a strange one indeed, we fit the latest gay image of the gay ‘daddy’. In many cases, of course, it should be the gay ‘grand-daddy’ due to our advanced age. A gay ‘daddy’ must of course be completely bald, or have short gray hair. A beard and/or mustache is a help, in fact the hairier the better so long as it is not on the top of his head. If, like me and some of my friends, you are in your 60s but still have longish hair with some color in it, then you don’t fit the gay ‘daddy’ image and are again ostracized as being a) too old to be on the general gay scene and b) not fitting the gay image of what older men should look like to be accepted by younger guys into the ‘daddy’ look.
How I wish someone would open a gay club/bar especially for people who look normal, by which I mean we don’t fit any of the current gay stereotype images. A place where we could be ourselves, where we could meet other gays who have individual looks and personalities, and where we could listen to a variety of music, not just the endless ‘house’ type sounds which most gay clubs insist on playing non-stop.
The attitude of many gay men is summed up in this advice once given to me by a friend who fits the ‘bear’ image: ‘Get your head shaved, and wear a “Queer As Fuck” t-shirt.’ Although said in a partly joking manner, he was really deadly serious. I was being told in no uncertain terms that I didn’t fit the latest gay image, and nobody on the scene would want to know me unless I got into the latest gay fashion.
This same guy was bragging in the same gay bar about his new Schott jacket, then also an essential gay fashion accessory, and which had cost him £150. I just replied: ‘Oh really? My shit jacket cost me £13.’ That promptly ended the conversation.
So we have come full circle. From the stereotype ‘gay’ image where we were all supposed to mince along flapping our wrists and talking with a camp lisp, to the current one promoted by the gay community itself, where we are all supposed to look like macho he-men who have gone prematurely bald.
There is nothing wrong with either image, or any others. The ‘camp’ mincing queen one is quite amusing, and I had no objection whatsoever to Larry Grayson, John Inman, Quentin Crisp or Julian Clary. But the point is we are not ALL like that.
Similarly with the ultra-macho look currently fashionable on the gay scene. It’s fine for those who really look that way, but all trying to fit this image and ostracizing those that don’t, that is Gay Fascism. It imprisons us all inside little boxes with labels like ‘clone’, ‘bear’ and ‘queen’ (yes there are still some camp ones about), and suppresses our individuality.
Surely even on the gay scene, variety is the spice of life?