Pride, Stonewall and me?

Once again Pride is on Saturday so get your rainbow flags out. In my early years on the gay scene, my first visit to London's Gay Pride was like Dorothy finding Kansas (in a big park, free with a suggested donation of £3). Back then it had a heady mix of politics and fun....but where has the political aspect gone?

We've come a long way baby but there is more work to do. Gay men can't donate blood, homophobic hate crime is on the increase (being reported and taken seriously) and internationally people are being abused, arrested, murdered and tortured for same sex love. It's great that we're relatively free to love and express ourselves in the west but do any of the younger gays care about gay politics, know of its history or know how lucky they are to have the right to publicly wave their flag?

I recently discovered that charity Stonewall have binned the transgender part of the groups activities and concentrating on the Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual side. Hang on a moment, where does the name Stonewall come from? From a little bar in New York that fire-started the queer revolution. And who threw the first stone? A bunch of trannys. Who publicly works for the rights of the transgender community now? There are small organisations but nothing close to the money and public exposure that Stonewall gets. They continue to use the name but have shut their trans sisters out in the cold without so much as a head scarf.

2009 was the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots and Pride London chose not to acknowledge it. Pride barely has a whiff of politics these days as like Stonewall, strive for a safe, mainstream acceptable face of homosexuality (much like the BBC). Web site Homovision were told they weren't allowed to be part of the march for turning up with placards and told “Pride is not a political demonstration”. I love a good public display of campness and frivolity but if we're supposed to be proud of who we are, surely Pride of all dates in the gay calendar is when our sisters past and present around the world should be recognised and remembered.

I don't fit the idealisation of 'gay' that Stonewall and Pride promotes. I could be lumped with the lesbians but few gay women events or groups hold any appeal for me (I don't like funky house or pool). You could throw me in with the drag queens but a lot of the performers represent a dated almost misogynistic idealisation of drag which is a shame when there is so much innovation going on in the alternative queer community. I'm incredibly proud to be a queer woman, who has the right to love, dress and act as she pleases yet feel a revolution brewing, from those who don't tick the boxes of mainstream gayness.

Pride and Stonewall, when you wave your rainbow flags this weekend remember it was originally created by Gilbert Baker in San Fransisco, a drag queen involved with The Cockettes. A group of queer alternative radical trannys.

However you choose to mark the occasion, have a great Pride.


PS The party I promote 'Hot Mess' will be throwing an alternative to the many Pride parties at Dalston Superstore. Come on down if you want an alternative to waxed chests, fake tans, pink cowboy hats and tranny exclusion. We've got REX THE DOG!

PPS Despite my ramblings, I got involved with Pride this year in a fun way.

Learn to love yourself

I recently performed at the RVT for Kimono Krush, always a fun gig but I had a tiny rant on-stage. I picked up a copy of Boyz magazine and asked the audience “Is this what we've become?”

I didn't intend to aim my vitriol at the mag directly but the gay and lesbian press and visual media in general is rather particular about how people are supposed to look.
One thing I have always liked about the gay male scene is that there is a whole spectrum of physical 'types'; clones, muscle marys, chubs, twinks, bears, scallys etc etc and all are fetishised but what I think is the most attractive 'type' is one that doesn't fit into a coded stereotype. It's not 'normal' as that suggests mediocre, its simply sexy.

They don't wear their sexuality as a uniform to define themselves. Some have hair, some don't. Some look ridiculous, other blend in. Some thin, others fat. Some follow fashion, others casual. They have no visual code to bind them, its inner confidence that makes them sexy. Confidence is key. Most of these men are over thirty and perhaps have gone through their youthful and sometimes precocious experimentation phase before realising they don't need to conform to a box. It's as if they acknowledge that the images advertising and media force upon us are false, unattainable, inane and driven to make money. With knowledge, comes power, divided by confidence and you get sexiness.

Recently I've heard from three very different 'types' of gay men complaining that they had to go to the gym/get spray tanned/not eat anything as it's so difficult to physically keep up with their peers. What kind of people are they trying to attract or friends do these people have if they they have to forgo being happy and look like carbon copies of each other to feel good about themselves? I generally find the more vain people are to strive to fit an image box, the more boring and miserable they are, their every action consumed by their appearance.
A lot of of this is sexual competition but a pumped up, A-sexual, hairless chest might be good to jump around on for a bit but it won't make your heart sing or talk to you about anything except waxing and protein shakes.

Last week I sat opposite a woman on the tube who was pretty, slim and well dressed but reeked of insecurity. She looked every woman in the carriage from top to toe, judging them with a smug smirk or look of disdain. How dull and shallow her life must be that she spends her time criticising and comparing herself to strangers? Suffice to say, when it was my turn to be scanned and she grimaced at my scruffy trousers and tatty trainers, I laughed out loud. Yeah I'm overweight and relaxed in my day wear but how others judge me isn't a concern. If they're that shallow and don't like me as I am, then they're clearly not worth my time.

To quote Ru Paul (who paraphrases the Dali Lama*) “If you don't love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?'”. I'd like to round up the insanely image conscious, body dysmorphic, tanorexics, gym maniacs, calorie counters and fashion fascists, give them a shake and an almighty hug because lets face it, what we all need is love, understanding and in some cases, a big fat pie.

As for the lesbian media; I do not identify with it at all. It disturbs me .... but that's a another rant.


* Dalai Lama “If you don't love yourself, you cannot love others. You will not be able to love others. If you have no compassion for yourself then you are not able of developing compassion for others.”

Vengaboys love bum fun

I'm in a slight state of confusion after just watching the comeback single for pop monsters Vengaboys (a hybrid of Steps and Alcatraz.... on methadrone). The song itself is nothing new in terms of 'aimed at the gays' pop though there are probably some people who partied through the back end of the 90s that it'll appeal to.
The song is called 'Rocket to Uranus'. Immediately all I can think is bum sex but lets dismantle this a bit....
The Vengaboys have been living in a secret house in Kingston Town building a rocket, could they be terrorists? Of course not, their rocket is shaped like a cock and balls and they're on a mission to Uranus which they tell us is a 24 hour party place with freedom for all (Vauxhall?).
Countdowns are repeated, Perez Hilton pops in as someone from Lazy Town, an astronaut and the moon from Mighty Boosh randomly spouting “yeah, lets party, Uranus is so pretty”. Nonsensical but some of the best pop songs are as meaningful as a Katie Price marriage.
They tell us its a place of freedom but it seems to be overlooked by an evil witch who captains a giant fist and wants to destroy Uranus. Spotting the mighty Vengaboys' flying dick, his bikini clad winged monkeys are dispatched to stop the party and block the cock. And who is the party music hating baddie who wants them 'Dead or Alive'? Why it could only be princess of paranoia, Pete Burns. Luckily, pop saves the day when his minions are hypnotised by the Venga beat and join in the fun. Pete pops down to asses the situation himself only to find his head explodes while the Venga's look on laughing hysterically. Death by disco.
It closes with the vocoded matra of 'Lets have a party on Uranus', everyone drops more methadrone and parties forever more because on Uranus there is no need for tawdry activities like sleeping. Good triumphs over bad, its a classic tale but its the penetration of a phallic shaped rocket into Uranus that saves the day. (Does that mean the Vengaboys are sperm?)
I love so bad its good pop (Cheeky Girls' Touch My Bum' is so under rated) but I can't see myself buying/remembering the song but its quite an event. Perhaps the Vengaboys are back to bring some much needed nonsense to pop music which is no bad thing but its a shame its so, well, crap. Pop needs silly naff crap (Pixie Lott isn't naff, just crap) but it's just not hooky enough (give me Boom Boom Boom Boom any day).
To summarise the song is rubbish, the collaboration between the Venga's , Hilton and Burns is beyond surreal, the stylist needs shooting (who certainly fell out with the blonde one, who looks like she fell out of the back end of a festival. Though I quite like Pete's bubble frock) yet the overall message is quite positive for fans of Uranus.
Cock and bum sex is good, fisting, less so. Lets have a party. Hurrah!

Respect...David Hoyle

Tonight I was part of a panel titled 'Queer Performers' at the Central School of Speech and Drama with Dusty Limits and David Hoyle which was fabulous and fascinating to be part of (the three of us could have gone on all night, we'd barely scratched the surface.)

Key inspirations into my alt queer artistic education are Divine, Leigh Bowery and the artist now known as David Hoyle.

I first discovered David back in 1999 when his first TV show 'Divine David Presents' aired on Channel 4. I'd recently left the Army, knew nothing of the Avant-garde and about to study my degree in Photography in Blackpool (ironically where David is from). Suffice to say, David blew my head apart and made me question gender, sexuality, life, art and the so-called norms of how we are expected to behave in a so-called civilised society.

There are times when I've not agreed with some of his rants and tirades but so very grateful that he gets on his soap box and does. There are plenty of politicised ranters (where I don't hear the actual message, all I receive is anger) yet he educates through entertainment. He makes me question my own morals and beliefs which I think is important as an artist, as a human. Where the gay scene has become homogenised by pink fluffy cowboy hats and funky house, David is a beacon of intelligence, humour and common sense.

The queues and popularity of his solo shows prove that people want to listen and are interested beyond getting high, the body beautiful and the latest Kylie single (which is about as emotive and pop worthy as the crumbs down the side of my cooker). Collectively we need a voice, someone in a position to reach as many as possible and represent those who don't fit the boxes that we're supposed to.

Get David Hoyle back on TV, where he can reach and inspire the artists, queers and free thinkers of the future.

Right then, who wants to come and queue outside the RVT with me to see him shatter conceptions of what it is to entertain?

[Photo Kristen Elsby]