Thursday 2 August 2018

What I Go To Pride For

What I Go To Pride For

A lot of my life these days involves trying very hard to be a decent person in the wake of a very expensive education that taught me to be an entitled prick. Mostly. I still vividly remember the assembly during my first year of school, where a visiting priest told us about the magical lake that God created to reward people for being good. Its waters gave them beautiful pale, white, skin. But the lazy people, the layabouts who got there last, only managed to get the palms of their hands and the soles of their feet in, hence the dark skin on the rest of their bodies. Because they were lazy. I was taught this at five, in a Church of England Infant School in Surrey in 1982.

I found this image on a US website helping LGBTQI christians to find acceptance in the Church
I like to think that means the world is a little less shitty then it was in 1982

I had shit like this drip-fed to me daily throughout my education, rarely as blatant as that, but it was there, that vague undercurrent that different means bad, that people 'like us' were inherently better. That femininity is something to be ashamed of, that various things that all people do, whether male, female or something inbetween are feminine (therefore bad), and weak – like crying, or being kind to strangers (you know, like Jesus did). Above all, that men are supposed to act in a certain way, no deviation, no deviants. Well fuck that, if there's one thing you can call me that I will always agree with, it's a deviant. Since a fair chunk of this education was given to me by the generation that gave you thalidomide and eugenics, I am happy to disregard all the many distasteful bits.

I realise that this is also the generation that fought and died for us in at least one World War (two in a lot of cases) but it's worth remembering that some of them must have been responsible for all of that being necessary by starting the fucking things.

For the sake of clarity, let me say here that I am a man, always have been male, very happy to be male, and a heterosexual man to boot. A man who fancies women (well, just the one woman, my wife.) So, a white, cishet, monogamous, public-school educated man. You can refer to me as him and he and I won't bat an eyelid. Nicely privileged, thank you very much world, I do not need to make any effort and everything is tilted in my favour.

That's becoming an easy thing to forget in a world of shrinking wages and spam-faced propaganda ranting that it is all being taken away from my kind. Difficult to remember that 'my kind' are still very heavily in control of pretty much everything, we're just having to share now, like the angry red-faced boy from my class back at Cranleigh First School who would punch you to the stony ground before letting you have a go on one of his many Yo-Yos. I expect he writes angry letters to the Daily Mail now about not wanting to share his universal health care.

Oh my god, I found this picture and it's a real thing and not ironic and of course it's American
What the fuck?

Toxic Masculinity is a phrase being thrown about a lot at the moment. And it's a good thing it's finally being talked about. One day, we will all just be allowed to be referred to as 'people' without any need for labels, worried questions or fear of accidentally fancying the 'wrong' gender. And on that day I will finally stop using the phrase 'Gender as a social construct,' in nearly every argument I have with a bigot in the pub. That day is not today however.

Take, for instance, the simple phrase, 'Get Fucked.' Why on earth is this used as an insult? Surely the one thing most of us are trying to do all the time in our day to day lives is to get fucked? What better prize than consensual intercourse with some other willing human being? To be honest, my current reply of 'Thank you, you too,' has not caught on yet, but I'm hoping it does soon, and that 'Get Fucked,' will replace 'Have a Nice Day,' as the pleasantry of choice.

We are hung up on the idea that having something enter you (a cock usually) is an act of submission, that it implies the cock-wielder has some power over you.

I would suggest, that allowing somebody else to entirely engulf one of the most sensitive parts of your anatomy is a little more submissive. We need to change the narrative. Using two people having sex as a punchline is ludicrous, particularly when we always, but always, portray the fuckee as having been beaten by the fucker. The recent Putin/Trump/Piers Morgan gay jokes are but the tip of the iceberg in dehumanising 'humour' that leaves many of your fellow humans very much unamused.

Justin Myers (author of the utterly brilliant Last Romeo) had this to say about it on Twitter the other day.

'When so-called “woke” people give homophobia a free pass because the effect on the target is more valuable than the effect on LITERALLY EVERY OTHER LGBTQ PERSON I want to take a bath with my toaster.
When I see things like this, it reminds me – like I‘d ever forget – that my status as a citizen can be downgraded or revoked at any time if the use of my sexuality as a punchline requires it. If you’re LGBTQ and don’t see the issue, jam your eyes open with matches and look again.'
I heartily endorse this, and would add, if you're not a total bellend and can't see the issue, do likewise.

I recently spent a day in a hot sweaty car with some proper blokey blokes, and had to make small talk about sport and cars. I can just about blag it now, but I'd rather not, and there's always that look they get that I am not a proper bloke because I don't want to talk about that, or laugh along at their snide jokes about women and gays not being able to drive.

I am by no means a manly man, I never have been. I've always been a bit of an outsider, I liked playing with dolls (managed to bypass the worst of that by using Action Force, Mask and Transformers, but I also had a big thing for Wuzzles, and a brief obsession with Care Bears) and cared not one jot for sport in any way. Still don't. On the first day of school, any school (I went to quite a few different ones), I would always be asked what football team I supported, eventually I learned not to say, 'I don't like football' as it would be met with incomprehension and banishment. I remembered that my father and brother are avid Chelsea supporters, and proudly said 'I support Chelsea,' and subsequently spent four years of school banished by a class full of Manchester United supporters.
I really can't get a fucking break. There's a reason a lot of my best friends at school were girls. I was not just trying to get into their pants.

Seriously, I loved these, I had an Eleroo, and finished the Panini sticker album
despite nobody else at school having any swaps.

I did spend a few years faking it to get acceptance, I like pubs, I like drinking, and I like camaraderie and shouting. I went to watch football in the pub (it was a good way to spend time with my dad) until I could take it no more. If the game went the wrong way, nobody wanted to stay out drinking, or if they did they were miserable as sin. I can't live like that, my happiness is dependent on things I have done, not 11 strangers in their underwear. I even spent four years watching cricket, out of a vague intellectual interest. It took me that long to figure out the rules, at which point I was bored of that too. I do like the idea of a game that lasts so long you won't miss much if you nip to the shops for an hour or two though.

But I like LGBTQI Pride events. I like hanging out with people who feel that outside otherness on a completely different level. I'm often dismissed as a bit weird, but I don't get abuse thrown at me on a regular basis that makes me feel less than human. These people do, from people like me, yet if I come down to party with them they accept me – a straight white male – and it's all good. I am not in any way claiming that my struggle as a long-haired, flamboyant dresser with a new-found penchant for nail varnish equates with theirs – I don't want a letter added to the end or my own stripe on the flag. I have it pretty damn good thanks, remember I'm male, stale and pale baby.

But it is a safe space for me, so my reasons for attending are not entirely altruistic.

Safe spaces are getting a bad rap these days, from people who like to call everybody snowflakes. These are the same people who burst every cholesterol-engorged blood vessel in their body if you don't wear a poppy, or if a chocolate egg doesn't have the word Easter on it, or if a brown person wins a TV talent show. People so threatened by having to share that they will almost certainly punch you to the gravelly ground, where you will cut your knee and have to endure the agony of having iodine poured over it by your mum, before letting you have a go on their Yo-Yo. Even though they have a massive box full of Yo-Yos at home, and the means to get as many more as they like.

There are people who are scared that a man might hit on them if they go to a gay club. But to them I say, what do you do when a woman you don't fancy hits on you in a nightclub? Take it as the compliment it is, say 'Sorry, no thanks,' and carry on dancing – easy. If you're worried that he's bigger than you and you might get attacked, then congratulations, you just learned a little bit of what it's like for actual women EVERY FUCKING TIME THEY GO OUT.

I admit, when I first started going to LGBTQI events, I clung to my wife, terrified people might think I was gay.
Before I realised how dumb that was.
It doesn't matter.
I used to say 'Sorry, I'm straight,' to turn down prospective suitors – in case it wasn't obvious, but now I just wave my wedding ring, and say, 'Sorry, I'm taken,' because my sexuality is not an issue. My monogamy is.

Masculinity is a long complex, thing with no rules, no conditions that need to be met in order to be allowed in the man club. If you aren't secure enough in your own to go to an awesome parade and march with your fellow human beings to help ensure they feel validated for once then piss off home snowflake*.

I shall be being fabulous at Brighton Pride this weekend if anyone is about and fancies a good time (in the non-sexy version of the phrase) see you there.

*I do not for one minute endorse the use of the term snowflake, although being told that you are a special, unique, beautiful construct with an incredibly finite lifetime in an increasingly dangerous universe is, of course, quite the compliment. Remember that next time a large joint of meat refers to you as such.