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Screaming Out of the Closet – Coming Out Day

This Coming Out Day, we revisit Screaming Out of the Closet and take a look at the phenomenon of ‘gaying-up’.

Barry Church-Woods

They say the best way to make a lasting impression, is to make a great entrance.

I know a lot of gay men who do this on a daily basis. Some enter rooms with a flourish, some jeté their way into a conversation while others squeal with delight to signify their approval.

I for one won’t get out of bed unless Barbra is being piped through the house in surround sound whilst a group of specially trained toy dogs bring me my underwear neatly laid out on velvet cushions.

1070026_10151725856840409_1764557747_nMy father wasn’t surprised that I was gay. Maybe it was because I used to watch Dallas and sing I Want To Be Bobby’s Girl. Or my Bucks Fizz impression with the tea towel. Or the fact that I spent the summer of ’86 commandeering the video player in the living room so I could learn all the routines to the Virgin Tour. It never seemed like an issue that he’d given much thought to. One night a couple of years ago over a whisky he mentioned that he was confused, as I don’t act like one. Realising that the ‘one’ he was referring to was the ‘homosexualist’ I bit my lip and stopped my impulse to say, “You’ve just never seen me suck a cock”. Thankfully.

On further evaluation I began to realise just how far we’ve evolved in the past sixty years. My dad was 18 when homosexuality was decriminalised in the UK. He lived through a sexual revolution. A social change where James Dean spoke for a generation of angsty teens determined to gain their own freedoms and make their own rules. A time where centuries of repression finally gave way and gay men and women finally had permission to be who they really were.

The phrase ‘act like one’ jarred with me. It seemed narrow-minded and ignorant, but then I realised that he comes from a generation where his first experience of gay men was watching the screaming queens on the telly. In-your-face activists were rightly, pushing in front of the cameras demanding to be heard after years of repression. Voices that had been silenced for eons eventually had volume, and people were listening! They became role models, poster boys or girls for a new generation, one where gender roles were blurred, where boys could be girls and girls could be boys and nobody had ever considered the possibility of gender being a non-binary concept.300px-KennethWilliams

Yes, they were a true reflection of who they really were, but they were also an amplified sample of a much larger group of people emerging from the shadows? People less camp. People less confrontational. Were these role models doing a disservice to the community? Tarring everyone with the same Max Factor brush?

It got me thinking about why so many gay men come screaming out of the closet. Is it a right of passage that I somehow
missed? Is it that for some of us, we’ve been so tightly wound that when we finally start becoming ourselves we can’t stop? It’s like a Tourette impulse. I know a hundred gay men who left their girlfriends on Monday and by Friday night were teaching Cheryl Cole’s Fight For This Love dance routine to teenage girls outside chip shops at 2am, screaming like banshees and bitching about boys.

Is this how they’d be naturally if they’d been born into a society that didn’t condition children into behaviours based on their bits?

Would the twink in the corner demanding an umbrella in his flirtini have grown out of his conceptually feminine behaviours by the age of ten if he’d been taught the words to Gloria Gaynor’s I Am What I Am instead of Jack and Jill when he was four? Does it matter? Am I in my way being homophobic by thinking that? Surely true equality comes when nobody is judged for being different.

I can laugh heartily at the choice to list ‘straight acting’ in a Grindr profile that later states ‘rimming’ as an enjoyable past-time, but is this just perpetuating yet another lack of tolerance? I’m not sure I’ll ever have an answer. I’m not even sure I need it. We are after all, all Jock Tamsin’s bairns and I for one love each sparkle and each bangle.



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2 replies

  1. I’m sorry sweetie but take one “A” out of “Barbara” or you’re reaaaaaaaally not in the club! (read this with a screaming diva lilt).

    Great piece. It’s the feminine in gay men that I reckon society is scared of. They try to bash it, shame it, legislate it out of us, but it just keeps popping up, naughty X chromosome!

    Madonna and Barbra know the rhythm which brings it out as an involuntary impulse.

    One day, in a very long time I suspect, nobody will even notice!

    Hell-lo, how are we gonna pull attention then, sweetie?


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