#14 you get to enjoy gay dating sites…

Yes, I know that straight boys and girls have dating websites too, but they can’t possibly be as much fun as their gay equivalents, can they? Well it sort of depends on how you define the word ‘fun’ I suppose. If like me, you define it as ‘being subjected to loads of nauseating images of slightly out-of-shape men with no knickers on in a variety of ill-advised poses’ then no, I declare emphatically, they can’t possibly be as much fun. Nor can they be as heart-warming. Because there is nothing in the world so wholesome and reassuring as the gooey feeling I get inside when total strangers send me pictures of their:

  • hard penises
  • soft penises
  • semi-hard penises
  • underpanted penises
  • half-underpanted penises that are peeping out of said underpants

Oh, I could go on for ever. The variations are manifold. And the great thing is, I don’t even need to see pictures of the faces of these penis-owners. I’m not remotely interested in the rest of the man. These clever boys have deduced that all I really want is to be given such a detailed close-up of their ‘beasts’ that I am able to make a thorough evaluation of them, for this is the only criteria by which I could possibly – as a reasonable human being in his right mind – judge their suitability for me.

I work on the principle that basically, I am just dating that one body-part. It might be attached to a whole other complex physiological composite with arms and legs and a brain and emotions and other saccharine gloopy stuff like that, but my attention (and intention for that matter) remains firmly focused on the penis.

Come to think of it, it would be so much easier if we could just dispose of the men they were attached to altogether. Imagine it. A whole world of disembodied trouser-snakes (Penisland, anyone?), each with its own profile on Gaydar. Sort of like Gaydar is now, but with an even higher concentration of anonymous bell-ends filling my i-phone screen. What a bewitching idea.

To work, I say. Let’s make the dream a reality. Alert the scientists. Have they not set down their petri-dishes to start working on how to successfully anoint phalluses with independent life? Have they not been informed that the answer to all of the world’s problems is More Floating Penises? Gay men on dating websites have known this for AGES. Why didn’t they speak up? Why did no-one tell the scientists?

Here are the poor bespectacled geniuses busily scratching their temples over the conundrum of cancer and all the while, they could be imbuing artificially conceived male members with life, thereby circumventing the need for a cure to this disease in the first place.

It’s all so simple. I have it all worked out. Eventually, if we follow the plan as telepathically postulated by the disembodied willies on gay dating websites, we will all be reduced to our ‘sexiest’ constituent parts (also known as the only parts of us worth bothering about. Just think of the rest of the human form as hot air, gristle and bone). Thus, there will be very little flesh left to contract cancer in the first place. Duh! And while we’re on the subject, bye-bye obesity epidemic.

In a hundred years we could be living in a golden age where no-one exists at all. Or more specifically, everyone does, only instead of all of them being here, it will just be their best bits. The streets could be lined, not as the doomsayers have predicted, with overweight people lumbering through the mire in search of their next bag of chips, but with a cacophony of floating willies and vaginas and bum-holes and pendulous breasts, all colliding with each other in an endless merry-go-round of sex and slap and spank and spunk.

Gone, the awkward interactions of the first date, replaced by instantaneous sex and premature ejaculation. Who needs conversation anyway? After all, there is very little input from the penis in the average conversation I have noticed. It just hangs there, not adding a single iota of wisdom or mirth to proceedings. What I can conclude from this is that talking requires no penises at all. Or vaginas, for that matter.

Therefore, I can only surmise that conversation is pointless. So much of our time is spent nattering away that genitals everywhere are being made virtually redundant. After all, of what use is my old man if he spends most of the day lolling idly between my thighs like a lazy dog in the nadir of an Indian summer?

If the dream were to become a reality and ‘sexy’ body parts were all that remained of us, even the mundane trivialities of life, like going for the bus or putting the bins out could be transmuted into never-ending opportunities for raucous, mindless pounding. Sort of like living in a world where it was permanently Essex town-centre on a Friday night, only with less hair extensions and manicured man-hands.

And if you are one of those puritanical types and this doesn’t sound quite like the utopia it purports to be, then let me inform you that you are likely suffering from one of the following maladies:

  • you have a mind of your own and enjoy using it
  • you don’t appreciate being reduced to whatever it is that nestles beneath your underwear
  • you dislike the idea of a stranger evaluating your worth based on the size and shape of your sex organ/s
  • you think that the ‘whole’ person should be involved in sexual intimacy, not just their genitals

The best cure for any of these irksome conditions is to take a gratuitous crotch-shot of yourself and post it online. And then drink a lot of gin. Or whisky. And then whack yourself over the head with a wooden mallet until you are ‘asleep.’

By the time you wake up, you will likely find that you have knocked some sense into yourself. If not, just carry on repeating the process. Even if you never achieve the desired result, you will at least give yourself partial brain damage without the need of a surgical lobotomy.

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#13 you get to stay friends with your exes…

Last Friday I spent the night with my ex. We didn’t have sex and there weren’t any motives behind either of us being there. It just so happens that I love hanging out with him, we’re good friends, and I couldn’t think of any other place I’d rather have been.

This isn’t an isolated case. I still hang out with a guy I was seeing well over a year ago and have had several other near misses wherein the friendships have evaporated or been dissolved, though not as a direct result of the initial romantic/sexual phase of the relationship failing.

This anomalous back-to-front, sex-before-friendship model breaks all the traditional rules of dating which posit that the friendship should come first, or at least that if you have a sexual relationship with someone and it fails, this should mark the end of your association with that person.

For most heterosexuals, things tend to follow this more traditional model. Generally, their sexual mores fall into two categories:

1. Drunken one-night stands

These involve completely absolving yourself of rational decision-making skills in favour of getting so drunk that you end the night having the sort of sex that leads to waking up the following morning feeling like you have been run over by a pack of huskies made out of trains, before slowly becoming aware that there is some sort of lump of human next to you breathing stale sex and the tattered entrails of Jaegermeister all over your neck.

You invariably discover that during the night, your bedfellow has replaced his/her original face with somebody else’s, someone whose face is made from a swollen toadstool and the disconcertingly soft dough of a pre-baked white bloomer loaf.

These encounters inevitably lead to the romantic conclusion of you vowing never to drink again except over your own dead body, begging a God you don’t even believe in to arrange for this person to die peacefully in their sleep, aged 27, so that you’ll never have to see them again, brushing your gums away with TCP and adding seven minutes to your shower time so you can scrub all of their DNA traces and saliva tracks from every last orifice of your forever tainted body.

2. Life-long commitments

These involve meeting someone at work, university, a friend’s party or in rehab (if you are a pop star or were previously a child actor), then spending the next 3 months – 7 years building a solid foundation based on mutual attraction and growing affection before embarking on a loving relationship from which you will never be released, either until death clamps its jaws around your wrinkled pulp of a head or until one of you has an affair with someone from the office who at first blush seems more interesting and enticing than your boring old spouse, but later proves to be an emotionally unavailable sociopath with a predilection for embezzling the life-savings of gullible divorcees.

When I split up with my ex, we both knew that our association would continue because our relationship was stronger than the sum of its parts. Removing the romantic element wasn’t going to destroy it. Predominantly, removing the romantic element from a straight couple’s relationship is like removing the heart from the body, leading to the death of the organism. For gay couples, it can sometimes be more like removing the appendix or the tonsils or lopping off the foreskin. It isn’t necessarily a fatal procedure and it may actually improve the functioning of the ‘body.’

So, what of sex? Well, I have slept with my ex since we split, but again, it never felt like it denoted anything other than reacting to what felt natural at that moment in time. It certainly didn’t feel like an assertion from on high that we must get back together for the sake of our unruly penises.

For heterosexual couples who have sex after splitting, things seem to be somewhat different. Post break-up sex is less about sexy faces and more about frowny ones. It’s less about caressing sultry flesh and more about prodding at thigh gristle with the affection of someone plonking sausages into mashed-potato mountains. It’s less about bringing your partner to climax and more about growling them into submission as you pound away at each other with the maniacal frenzy of adolescent labradoodles humping elderly strangers’ legs.

There’s also the not insignificant matter of breakfast. When I stay at my ex’s flat, I am blessed with Eggs Benedict the morning after, regardless of whether we have had sex or not (and it’s usually ‘not’ these days). Heterosexual post-break-up-sex breakfasts sound distinctly less pleasurable. Delicacies to savour include baleful glances from across the table, drinking from the tap like a neglected dog because you’ve been refused (via the medium of stony silence) a glass, chewing on your own fist to avoid punching the doorframe with it and being a bit sick in the back of your throat and then swallowing it down again. Who’s for seconds?

Sexual relationships between two people come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes they work and more often, they don’t. But what’s important to remember is all the other stuff involved in the relationship. Does your partner make you laugh? Do you like hanging out together? Do you value their opinions? Do you respect what they have to say? Do they understand and appreciate you? If the answer to these things is yes, maybe the end of a romantic entanglement doesn’t mean it has to be the end of the friendship.

I think that the homosexual model represents a more healthy approach to relationships here. I used to date a guy whose long-term boyfriend became his best friend after they broke up. They are still best friends over fifteen years later.

Maybe it’s time to delineate romantic attachment and re-contextualise what it represents within the relationship, and more specifically, what it represents in the context of the dissolution of a relationship. As gay men have come to see, romantic attachment isn’t everything. And removing it needn’t kill the beast completely.

#12 you get to experience equality becoming reality

February 5, 2013 was a historic day for gay people in England and Wales. By a majority of 225, MPs voted overwhelmingly in favour of the bill to allow couples of the same sex to marry. Now the bill has to navigate The House of Lords, after which – we hope – the statute will be passed. The road to this point has been arduous, and there is still much to be done to achieve genuine equality for gay people in this country, but this remains a landmark day nonetheless.

Along with many other people, I wrote to my MP prior to the vote on 5 February to express my opinions on this bill. Below is a transcript of my email:

As a 30-year-old gay man in your constituency, I am writing in respect of the Marriage Bill on 5 February. I strongly believe that gay people should be afforded the same rights as heterosexual couples and that they should be legally allowed to marry in this country. 

It is difficult to explain to people how disheartening it is to be discriminated against in so many subtle and not-so-subtle ways on the basis of your sexuality. I am sure that if the people who opposed legislative changes to ensure that gay people are given equal rights and opportunities in society understood our perspective, they would not continue to oppose us. I hold no anger or bitterness towards them because they are acting from a position of defense based on the beliefs they hold. I do not blame them for this. People cannot support what they do not understand. And people who do not want to understand cannot be made to do so.  

However, I am positive that if these people realised what it means and how it feels to grow up gay in this culture, knowing clearly that there is nothing you can do to alter your sexual orientation, they would not only respect us, but would support us wholeheartedly. I hope that one day, this understanding will be universal, but until then we need the support of politicians in order to make the legislative changes which can improve our position within society and allow us the same freedoms as heterosexuals. 

I am writing to ask you to support the Marriage Bill on 5 February and to support it because you believe in the equality of all men and women, because you believe that the most important aspect to be considered when formalising the union of two people does not relate to their respective genders, but to the love they have for each another.

Of all the many speeches made in the debate over marriage equality in the House of Commons yesterday, the one that stood out for me was that of David Lammy, the Labour back-bench Opposition MP. He spoke as the son of Guyanese immigrants, as the child of a man who was refused civil liberties on the basis of his skin colour, half a century ago. He rallied against opponents of the bill who said that same-sex couples should be entitled to civil partnerships but not marriage, saying:

“Let me speak frankly: separate but equal is a fraud. Separate but equal is the language that tried to push Rosa Parks to the back of the bus. Separate but equal is the motif that determined that black and white people could not possibly drink from the same water fountain, eat at the same table or use the same toilets. Separate but equal are the words that justified sending black children to different schools from their white peers, schools that would fail them and condemn them to a life of poverty…. This is not separate but equal, it is separate and discriminated, separate and oppressed, separate and brow-beaten, separate and subjugated. Separate is not equal, so let us be rid of it… As long as our statute books suggest that love between two men or two women is unworthy of being recognised through marriage, we allow the rot of homophobia to fester.”

Lammy, who is a church-going Christian, went on to address the dire extent of homophobic criminality still in existence in this country before closing his statement by addressing those who rejected the passing of this bill on the grounds of religiosity, saying: “The Jesus I know was born a refugee: illegitimate, with a death warrant on his name in a barn amongst animals. He would stand up for minorities. That is why it is right for those who have religious conviction to vote for this bill.”

Yesterday, in the midst of the debate regarding equal marriage, a very close friend of mine – and someone, incidentally, who serves as an inspiration for many of us because of her devotion and commitment to promoting LGBT rights –  posted a status update on facebook stating how “emotionally exhausted” she felt listening to people who “disagree with” or “hate” who she is on the basis of her sexuality. She also posted a screenshot of the ITV facebook page displaying abusive, homophobic messages to illustrate some of the negative sentiments being expressed by certain members of the public in regards to this bill.

I think that whilst inaction can never be the answer, it is important that the LGBT movement as a whole remains dignified in the face of discrimination and hatred and refuses to lower itself to the level of the vocal minority who actively promote homophobia. Let us remember the stance taken by Martin Luther King Jr. in the face of violence and oppression during the civil rights movement. To illustrate his morality and his commitment to fighting hatred with love, I would like to include this un-abridged extract from a speech he made in 1967:

I’ve seen too much hate to want to hate, myself, and I’ve seen hate on the faces of too many sheriffs, too many white citizens’ councilors, and too many Klansmen of the South to want to hate, myself; and every time I see it, I say to myself, hate is too great a burden to bear. Somehow we must be able to stand up before our most bitter opponents and say: “We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We will meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will and we will still love you. We cannot in all good conscience obey your unjust laws and abide by the unjust system, because noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good, and so throw us in jail and we will still love you. Bomb our homes and threaten our children, and, as difficult as it is, we will still love you. Send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our communities at the midnight hour and drag us out on some wayward road and leave us half-dead as you beat us, and we will still love you. Send your propaganda agents around the country, and make it appear that we are not fit, culturally or otherwise, for integration, and we’ll still love you. But be assured that we’ll wear you down by our capacity to suffer, and one day we will win our freedom. We will not only win freedom for ourselves; we will so appeal to your heart and conscience that we will win you in the process, and our victory will be a double victory.”

Now, more than ever before, I think that gay and bisexual people must take heart in the commitment of the democratic majority to place equality before discriminatory traditions and religious statute. We must take pride in ourselves for having the courage to follow the path of our hearts instead of the path of least resistance. We must give thanks to the generation who went before, who bravely laid down the foundations of equality so that we could tread. We must stand together with our gay brothers and sisters who help us to bear the burden of the injustices and prejudices we still endure today. And most of all, we must have faith that the day will come when we are no longer viewed as ‘other’ because of our sexuality, but are regarded as one because of our humanity.

I am a man who – despite currently being un-partnered – has dreamt of being allowed to marry for a long time. I have dreamt of my own wedding day. And this dream does not centre on outfits or venues or guest-lists or three-tiered cakes. Mine is the dream of being able to stand before the man I love and commit my life to him in the presence of those closest to us; our family and friends. That this dream is now knocking on the door of reality is a beautiful thing. That is equality in action. It is humility in action. It is love in action.

#11 you get to fall hopelessly in love with Beyoncé at the Super Bowl

It’s approaching 1.00am on a Monday morning and I am watching American football. This is not something I should ever even be thinking about, let alone saying or actually doing. But I am compelled to sit here, slack-jawed, watching a motley bunch of beefcakes in shoulder-pads jumping and barging and galloping and crouching and throwing themselves to the ground in endless repetition. It’s all completely baffling and yawn-inducing. It’s so unfathomably tiresome that after seven minutes my eyes can no longer even discern what is happening as they have started turning into soup and seeping backwards into my brain.

And yet, all this agony will be worth it. Because soon, the players will leave the pitch, the crowd will fall silent and Beyoncé will take to the stage to provide the half-time entertainment. She has had a rough few weeks. It all began when she made some fairly grand proclamations to a men’s magazine inferring that she was some sort of feminist role-model whilst simultaneously supplying them with a handful of skipping-around-in-my-knickers photographs to accompany the article. Neither a smart or an empowering thing to do. Then followed the inauguration debacle, after which she was pilloried and responded by holding a pre-Super Bowl press conference during which she attempted to hush the naysayers with a gut-busting a cappella rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner. She atoned, but the sin was only partly washed away, and she left with her reputation bolstered as opposed to wholly repaired. For “Mrs Carter” (I can’t imagine Jay-Z ever deigning to re-brand himself “Mr Knowles”, but hey-ho, I’m sure it’s all just semantics…), there’s a lot riding on her halftime show. Her upcoming performance has been hotly debated and anticipated, and a cursory scan of my twitter-feed reveals that #Superbowl is largely playing second fiddle to #BeyonceBowl. The pressure is decidedly on.

Collectively, the world (aka girls and gays) holds its breath.

What unfolds over the next twelve minutes can only be described as a masterclass in live entertainment, a performance so epic that the clack of a million homosexual jaws can simultaneously be heard hitting the floor. Dressed somewhere between Cat Woman and Paris Hilton’s evil twin, the lights come up on Beyoncé who struts forth in all her pneumatic glory before stripping down from not-very-much-to-begin-with to what is basically an elaborate one-piece swimming costume made of leather and fingerless, elbow length gloves. It sounds terrible and worn by pretty much anyone else, it would look terrible too, but as per, Beyoncé pulls it off.

As the show begins, the Earth shifts on its axis under the weight of her thighs which have temporarily harnessed the power of the entire universe and propel her through some of the fiercest dance routines ever conceived. Yes, they mostly re-interpret what she has done before, but does this make them any less spectacular? In a word, no. As the minutes fall away, she proceeds to grind and writhe and lunge and stamp and hurl herself through a self-imposed invisible obstacle course so rigorous that it makes Total Wipeout look like the middle-of-the-night shuffle between your bed and the toilet. And in the midst of this frenetic display she somehow musters the lung-power to belt out a medley of her biggest hits, including Crazy in Love, Baby Boy & Halo. You have to hand it to her, she knows how to shut it down.

At the midway point, she is joined by her old bandmates to whip hastily through a few Destiny’s Child numbers. I particularly enjoy the moment when Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams are violently catapulted from the netherworld to join her up on stage. The whole thing seems to have been orchestrated to make them look slightly unsteady on their feet, as though they have just polished off a bottle of Jack Daniels in the dressing room. Kelly comes off better as her haunches are made of stern stuff and she uses them to plant herself firmly on solid ground, whereas Michelle is launched into the air like a jack-in-the-box cut free from its moorings, her spindly legs barely providing her with the traction she needs to stay upright. It’s not an entirely seemless or dignified entrance and only serves to reinforce her position in the Destiny’s Child pecking order.

Beyoncé remains every inch the Child Princess to Kelly’s Child Labourer and Michelle’s Child Orphan. Still, they all harmonise nicely together and the two lesser ‘Children’ dance gamely through Single Ladies knowing full-well that they could break into Gangnam Style and start lassoing imaginary horses and no-one would notice, for the ‘Chief’ Child not only steals focus, she steals everything, so that nothing remains of the world except for her snarling mouth, glinting eyes and gyrating hips.

The unquestionable highlight of the show comes when Beyoncé pulls potentially the best face ever pulled during her rendition of Independent Ladies Part 1 at the very moment she shouts “Question!” If you haven’t YouTubed it, I suggest you do that now. It is simultaneously terrifying and hilarious and constitutes the one point in the performance where she doesn’t so much over-egg the pudding as drop a battery farm on top of it. Still, being Beyoncé, she somehow manages to get away with even that and the laughter is soon transmuted into incredulity at her mastery of the stage, for she so perfectly embodies that raw grace and expressiveness and sexuality and ferocity so particular to the African-American female. It’s hard to describe the visceral impact of watching her perform, other than to say that it feels sort of like poetry, if poetry could grind so low that its butt-cheeks skimmed the floor.

Gay men have always lapped up major female pop stars and there are probably no two more pertinent examples of this than Madonna and Lady Gaga. What these two have in common is their penchant for the outrageous, the shocking, the sexual. They create headlines more for what they do off the stage than anything else. And to a large extent, they are invariably more interesting off stage than they are on it. Beyoncé has the opposite appeal. She may form one-half of the world’s most famous power-couple but she still very much gives the impression that off-stage she is someone who places reserve and etiquette before flamboyancy and attention-seeking. Beyoncé the woman, the mother, the wife appears to be something of a demure creature. But put her in costume and focus the spotlight on her and she becomes, to my mind, the most implacably charismatic entertainer on the planet.

She is an intensely feminine performer, in spite of all those aggressive lunges and thrusts and snarls. And yet, there’s a ruthlessness about her, something unequivocal and animalistic which makes her mesmerising to watch. There is the palpable sense with Beyoncé that if you got under her feet during her show, she wouldn’t so much trample you as decimate you. You may even be immolated by the heat coming off of those thighs. Apply any superlative you like to her, they all fit. She’s a force of nature; a tornado, a hurricane, a tsunami. Under the guise of Sasha Fierce (her self-proclaimed stage persona) she’s a woman possessed, an Amazon, a Goddess. And for that, I love her…

#10 you’re allowed to talk about your feelings

There’s a very clear dividing line between heterosexual men and women. Apart from their contrasting genitals and facial hair situations, it’s the way they deal with feelings. Having checked the facts in my Big Book of Gender Stereotypes, I can see that for women, feelings are like signals from within telling them where they are at. To paraphrase, if a woman feels frustrated, the chances are she will identify the feeling as such and examine it and all the thoughts and hypotheses it precedes with grim fervour, analysing and dissecting it from every angle like an unhinged eight-year old let loose with a scalpel and a lab-frog, until she can’t even decide if she should go on living anymore, let alone whether to confront her boyfriend about the state of his socks. Alternatively, if a man feels frustrated, he will identify it as some sort of foreign invader to be mercilessly destroyed, kick it repeatedly in its knackers until it is dead, put it in a black sack, throw it from a metaphorical cliff and go to the pub.

No-one is quite sure which sex has the best approach here. It really depends how much you like simultaneously weeping and nattering to your friends compared with drinking yourself into oblivion and fighting with a burly stranger over the honour of a woman you don’t even know. Both are worthy options obviously, but diametrically opposed in that one requires you to spend half of your life vomiting emotions out like semi-digested vegetable soup whilst the other requires you to store every emotion you’ve ever had like some sort of fatty deposit around your stomach area and vital organs.

One good thing about actively identifying and dealing with emotions is that you get to ‘involve’ (aka inflict yourself upon) your friends. Yay! Everybody wins. Because as you know, there’s nothing more satisfying than finding new vantage points from which to morbidly perform oral autopsies on dead relationships that have left you with a feeling that falls somewhere between remorse and a stomach-ache brought on by a bad shrimp. Your friends will appreciate this too. It gives them the opportunity to empathise, nod and say things like “don’t worry babes, you’re a survivor.” It also makes them thankful for small mercies, like not being you. And if the roles are reversed, and you are the friend listening to the outpourings of another, you can take heart, knowing that:

  • You don’t seem nearly as mental by comparison. So what that you just finished hacking into your ex’s facebook account to send a private message to the Greek guy he met last week warning that “if you message me ever again, I will kill you. And then I will kill a puppy. And then myself….” SO WHAT?
  • You get to dispense wisdom. And as we all know, everyone loves dispensing wisdom. Especially if it gives them the chance to begin a sentence with “look, if you want my advice..” or “If I were you…” or, best of all “I’ve been there, so I know what I’m talking about…” (I especially recommend using this one if you have no relatable experience of the friend’s predicament at all…)

On the flip-side, whanging on about your crises and emotional insecurities and issues all the time can lead to your very presence in a room inciting dread and low breathy moans of despair from anyone else unfortunate enough to be stuck in there with you. Beware of becoming the Carrie Bradshaw of your social circle. Remember, she might know how to pick out a party dress, but after a bunch of cocktails, the only reason any man or woman  wants to rip it off her is so they can gag her with it. We all know from bitter experience what it’s like to have that one ‘friend’ who basically exists only to publicly examine every facet of their self-obsessed life (it’s usually the same friend who thinks that everything is giving them cancer and doesn’t trust men with far-apart eyes/close-together eyes/beards/tattoos/smiles that last too long etc…). It’s sort of like being pals with a hammer you can’t stop hitting yourself with, in that every word this ‘friend’ utters feels like another blow to the cranium with a blunt lump of lead.

The great thing about being gay is that you get free reign on whether you wish to adopt the stereotypical ‘neurotic female’ approach and obsess endlessly over your feelings or the stereotypical ‘male’ approach and deny that feelings even exist, let alone deal with them. You can even alternate between the two; one day spent weeping effusively and mopping your brow in public courtyards, the next spent masturbating joylessly and stonewalling your own partner in bed. Ah, the fun to be had.

I alternate, but predominantly go down the stereotypical ‘female’ route, and pore over every detail of my emotional life. Night and day are spent questioning and analysing and arguing both for and against myself. You should try it. It’s so much fun. You get to have conversations with attractive strangers which consist of you not listening to a word they say because your mind is going “God, is it obvious how much I fancy him? I wonder what it means that his leg is pointing towards my crotch. That must mean he wants to do me or something, right? Didn’t I see that on a programme about body language? I’m sure that was it. Either that or he wants to castrate me. Hmmm… Christ, listen to what he’s saying, you idiot. Should I be smiling more? God, am I looking really bored? Is he? God, he is. He’s really bored. Why am I so boring? Fuck, say something funny. Anything. Say something witty and ironic about how boring you are. No don’t say that. He’ll think you’re a total cunt….” etc…

Living this way is amazing because it means you get to spend entire days repeatedly asking things like “yeah, I know he said he likes me, but what does he really mean?” whilst throwing nine glasses of red wine down your neck and picking at scabs that don’t even exist. It means you get to gravely re-live every stupid thing you’ve ever said and make implausible pacts with yourself about how you will never speak again unless you have ruminated over every possible connotation of every last word you ever intend to utter, so that no-one can get the wrong idea, EVER again. It means you get to wake up in a state of panic at 4.17am and demand to know what the hell you were thinking when you tried to seduce that man at the party by way of the article you read in the paper about the old woman who got lost on her way home and ended up living in the forest for two weeks, surviving only on Werthers Originals and a flask of milky tea until a sniffer-dog found her led under a piece of corrugated roof wrapped in a hessian sack with a family of field mice living in the hood of her mac.

Join me. It’s awesome…..

Follow me: https://twitter.com/ChrisJHalton

#9 you will respect women

In 2013, it goes without saying that all men should respect women both explicitly and implicitly and that our nation should be built on a foundation of egalitarianism whereby everyone is afforded the same opportunities and rights regardless of gender, although the residue of patriarchal ideology still remains and permeates much of our society whether visibly or insidiously.

Women’s liberation has come a long way since the suffragette movement, and from a legislative point of view, 21st century England largely affords equal freedoms to women and men. However, the reality of gender equality remains a myth built on rhetoric, as espoused by male politicians. Of twenty-two senior cabinet positions in the current Government, four are held by women. This is analogous of the distribution of power in the country as a whole. Figures released last year by The Fawcett Society – which campaigns for gender equality – suggest that on average,women still earn 14.9% less per annum than men for the same job. The Chartered Management Institute reports that despite career women accounting for 57% of the professional workforce, only 40% are department heads and just 25% are chief executives.

Collectively, women have been marginalised and oppressed for centuries and understand only too well the social, economic and personal injustices inherent in being discriminated against for being perceived as ‘other.’ For that reason, they have been well placed to empathize with those of us who identify as LGBT.

The gay rights movement was only ever going to gain mainstream acceptance if it attracted non-gay advocates. These advocates were largely heterosexual females, and it was their continued support in greater and greater numbers that led to the gradual acceptance of heterosexual men. Without these women, it would have been a much tougher battle to secure social and legislative changes which uphold gay rights and protect those of us who identify as such from harm.

In America, one of the most powerful examples of female advocacy in the advancement of gay causes is Oprah Winfrey. According to Yale sociology professor, Joshua Gamson, the tabloid talk show genre did more to make LGBT people acceptable in the USA than any other development in the twentieth century, and Winfrey was pivotal in this movement. In 1988, members of her studio audience stood up one by one to announce that they were gay in observance of National Coming Out Day. In the same decade, she also used her platform to challenge misconceptions about AIDS and to promote debate regarding gay rights. She also challenged homophobic sentiments. In the mid-nineties during an episode on gay marriage, an audience member stated that she was “tired of” gay men flaunting their sex lives. Winfrey countered, saying “you know what I’m tired of? Heterosexual males raping and sodomizing young girls. That’s what I’m tired of.”

Her comment raised a salient point. Whilst homosexuals have been villified, bullied and cast out of communities for their moral and religious ‘sins’ (in other words, their engagement in mutually consensual sexual relations), a significant minority of heterosexual men have been allowed to partake in and propagate the sexual abuse and degradation of women and girls for generations. The overwhelming majority of sexual violence, exploitation and rape was and is committed by heterosexual men against women and girls.

This is borne out by statistics relating to human sex trafficking which has become a global problem of epidemic proportions. The International Labor Organization published a report in 2012 estimating that 4.5 million people are victims of what it calls “forced sexual exploitation” (this does not include migrant or domestic sex workers). Unsurprisingly, 98% of these people are women and girls. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s 2006 report states that no less than “161 countries are reported to be affected by human trafficking by being a source, transit or destination count.” The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that 300,000 domestic minors annually are at risk of or are being prostituted within state borders. The vast majority are female.

These alarming figures bear testimony to the fact that a minority of heterosexual men in the West are willing to pay for sex with women and girls who are being forced to provide these services against their will, the moral and social implications of which are worrying in the extreme. An even larger minority pay for sex with prostitutes (some of whom are under-age) who do consent to sex. Predominantly, these women and girls come from backgrounds of abuse and/or neglect and are caught in cycles of addiction which compel them to continue to sell sex in order to fund their habits. I’ve worked with sex-workers in a professional capacity, and I can assure you that they are not happy or empowered individuals, and they certainly don’t ‘enjoy’ their work. They are amongst the most emotionally fragile, vulnerable and at-risk women in our society.

Statistics released in the Government’s Action Plan on Violence Against Women and Girls for 2010-11 state that there are approximately 1 million victims of domestic abuse in England and Wales and that annually, an estimated 400,000 women are sexually assaulted and 80,000 are raped. These figures raise questions about how males are being taught to perceive females and to what extent the prevalence of the ‘woman as sex-object‘ idea is influencing male behaviour. Here in the UK, there is a societal dichotomy between simultaneously promoting the sexualisation of women and girls (particularly in the context of fashion and behaviour) whilst also holding them to account for adopting this sexualised ideology if they happen to be assaulted or raped.

In addition, the widespread popularity of lap-dancing bars and strip-clubs only furthers the notion that the objectification of women is acceptable and even a healthy expression of male sexuality. These establishments cheapen women, make them into objects to be ogled and toyed with and then discarded as opposed to humans to be treated with dignity. They also cheapen men, because they promote the myth that men need sexual gratification or titillation in a way that isn’t relevant for women. Men who use women as commodities in this manner are embodying the worst sort of gender stereotype and furthering the exploitation of women.

We can reverse the genders and try to imagine the situation the other way around, but the analogy doesn’t hold. If it did, the nation would be as full of male lap-dancing clubs and strip joints as it is with female ones. Perhaps this is partly because men wouldn’t do those jobs as readily, as they would see them as degrading and damaging. They would be right. I’d like to know how many of those men with money to burn on private dances from female strippers in these neon-lit clubs would be willing to strip naked and writhe around in front of a pack of drunken chanting women. I’d like to know how many of them would feel comfortable being objectified on the basis of how much weight they were carrying, their level of sex appeal, the size of their chests and the attractiveness of their genitals. I’d like to know how they would feel about being labelled ‘sluts’ and ‘hookers’ and ‘tarts’, because from the testimonies I’ve read, most of the women who work in these places have to deal with all of the above on a regular basis.

The lazy argument that these women are choosing to do the job, so they shouldn’t complain just isn’t good enough. Most women working in this industry have come from poor economic backgrounds, have not had access to or been supported to achieve a full education and/or have unstable support networks. These women are not empowered. They are trading their self-esteem for cash. They are flogging their bodies to the highest bidder who may or may not throw verbal abuse and physical lechery in for good measure. What’s depressing is that a growing number of educated young women are entering the industry on the basis of the financial gains to be had in order to pay for the ever-rising cost of a university education (and that’s what you call being failed by your own Government).

I’ve been to a strip-club, and I found the place distinctly depressing. Being gay, I obviously wasn’t going to be particularly enticed by a vagina in my face, but aside from that, there is nothing sexy about having some stranger stripping off in front of you when you know full well that they probably don’t respect you and have no interest in you other than your cash. Not to me there isn’t anyway.

I don’t want this piece to come across as a diatribe against heterosexual men. Equality isn’t about punishing any cross-section of society or getting revenge for what has gone before. The past is over with, and the prime concern of activism, whether in the name of feminism or the furthering of LGBT rights, must be to secure equality – real equality based not just on legislation but on the adoption of a moral and ethical code which posits that all people are born equal and as such, should be afforded the same social and economic opportunities, the same level of respect and the same freedom to be who they are without fear of harm, marginalisation or exclusion.

What I do want to do is to demonstrate how far we still have to go before we can realistically say we have truly achieved gender parity. I would like heterosexual men to understand that a lot of what they may have grown up accepting as ‘normal’ and ‘fair’ isn’t. Women understand this because they have been subjugated and made ‘less’ in lots of subtle and not-so-subtle ways since the day they were born. Gay people understand this because we have faced abuse and discrimination purely for being attracted to members of our own sex.

If you are a heterosexual male, through no fault of your own, you probably can’t understand the insidious damage of low-level sexism and gender stereotyping on young females. You can’t know the impact this has on their sense of self or their life choices. Nor can you really know the effect on women of our society’s troubling habit of basing their worth on their physical appearance and sexual availability as opposed to their character, their talent, their skills. It doesn’t affect you and you don’t suffer for it. You can’t understand the effect it has on a teenage homosexual to constantly hear the word ‘gay’ being used as an insult, as a way to humiliate and hurt. And you can’t truly understand the stress inherent in ‘coming out’ every single time you meet a new person, especially when it is assumed that you are heterosexual and are spoken to as such without having ever given confirmation of it.

What you can do, however, is to make yourself aware of these issues so that when you come up against this prejudice either in yourself or others, you may ask “is that an offensive thing to say? Am I making an assumption about this person without knowing the facts? Is this person being discriminated against? Do I need to state that I do not agree with my colleague’s comment?”

I not only concur with the fundamental tenets of feminism, I support and adhere to them. And every self-respecting man and woman in this country should too. Because it’s nothing to do with hating men or burning bras. It’s about levelling the playing-field. It’s about promoting true equality by putting people’s rights before economic expansion and material greed. And contrary to what our Government seem to believe, nobody benefits from the submission of anyone else. Women, like LGBT people, have never demanded ultimate control. They just want equal say and equal provision and equal respect. Let’s give it to them.

#8 you will understand clothes… maybe

These days it can be hard to tell who is gay and who is not, considering that so many straight guys spend more time pouring themselves into spray-on jeans than their girlfriends do (which may or may not be a good thing depending on how much you like the idea of men parading around displaying camel-toes). Life would be so much easier if it was 1953 (minus the Homosexuality Is A Criminal Offence/Homosexuality Is A Mental Illness/Homosexuality Is Proof That The Devil Has Possessed You schtick) when men all wore bucket-crotched grey trousers which reached almost to their nipples, a shirt and tie, and kept their hair lacquered with one part spit to two parts engine oil. Then we could at least distinguish the gay guys because they would have all bought trousers that were slightly more tailored (too small), lacquered their hair with one part cologne to two parts vaseline and done something interesting with their tie, like worn a pastel shade ordered from a place where colours existed, like Paris.

Nowadays, it’s a minefield. Something happened about ten years ago, which scrambled the whole gay-straight/time-space continuum forever. I suspect that Michael J Fox and The Wicked Queen from Snow White masterminded the whole thing but it’s just a guess. Anyway, it probably happened like this:

It was an innocuous Tuesday like any other, and everyone was asleep and a legion of ‘fairies’ versed by Santa Claus in how to visit millions of addresses in the space of a few short hours hit every straight man’s abode in the Western world, infecting them all with small doses of gay as they slept, probably administering it via a glittery funnel into their slumbering nostrils. Mistakes were made, with inexplicably large doses accidentally being given to the lucky few; think Russell Brand and will.i.am. When they awoke the next day, they were all suddenly perturbed by the oversized-ness of their t-shirts and the unflattering sagginess of their boot-cut jeans.

They sought relief in trousers so fitted that blood was no longer able to circulate to their testicles, pork-pie hats, skinny t-shirts, tattoos and distressed blazers. Suddenly, men loved fashion. They loved it so much that they started wearing their girlfriend’s woolly jumpers and countering the femme-overload with expansive beards and scrunched-up, follicular raggle-taggle nests atop their heads. They worked hard to look like they had narrowly evaded the epicentre of a bomb, all the while secretly revelling in the knowledge that two and a half hours had been spent perfecting their bedraggled hobo faces/hairstyles/body-coverage.

Meanwhile, all the gay men continued paying close attention to colour co-ordination, the fit of the garment and the precision of the structurally precarious hairstyle, the cabinets in their bathrooms so over-run with potions that they were bursting open with the frequency of Christina Aguilera’s hair-extensions drawer. And then something weird happened. Gay men gradually either got more straight (adopting the beard frenzy, plaid shirt, scuffed leather boot pseudo-hetero thing) or turned uber gay (wearing t-shirts so luridly dazzling and tight that they had to be ripped off by lovers with hands of steel, doctors with tiny circular saws or alligators with a delicate snapping action, and applying foundation so liberally that no-one was quite sure if Cher was hiding in their faces).

And this is pretty much the way things have continued to go. Now, the only guys that I can be sure are gay are the ones who sashay for the tube with the same hippy, skippy leg action as Beyonce in the Single Ladies video. And the only ones I can be sure are straight are the ones the ‘fairies’ forgot to visit, the ones who wear big, clonking white trainers with burgundy cords and formerly-blue sweatshirts from 1991 with L.A Gear written on the front of them in impossibly faded letters. All the rest merge into the endless fashion pie that is heterometrohomosexuality.

And within this addled, muddled man pie, all the gay guys check out all the straight guys imagining them to be gay whilst the straight guys exchange curious glances with other straight guys wondering why they are checking them out when they are clearly straight whilst the gay guys dismiss the gay guys for being so evidently straight that they aren’t worth the time and the straight guys don’t even bother looking at the gay guys because they are so assuredly straight that there’s just no point ‘hitting them up’ for an ego-boost. It’s all so confusing. It’s the most confusing pie in the world. It’s like a pie where the pastry is on the inside and the filling is on the outside, only the filling is not really filling, it’s just in disguise, pretending to be filling, and really it’s pastry, and the pastry is really the filling. That’s what it’s like. It’s like Heston Blumenthal gave birth to this pie via some dry ice and a flame-thrower and a molecular re-distribution machine. It’s the most bamboozling, irksome pie in the world. And I refuse to eat it.

So my original point, – the one I never even got around to making – that gay men understand clothes, fashion, what to wear and how to wear it, doesn’t necessarily hold. Because apparently, so do straight men. And also, some gay men are clueless about clothes (believing, erroneously, that tighter always equals better) as are some straight men (believing, erroneously, that cheaper always equals better). Anyway, as I have already concluded,  the whole thing is just a big perplexing sloppy mess of a pie, and allowing for that, here are some pointers which may help you to identify whether that guy opposite you on the tube is gay or not:

  1. If he is wearing any item of clothing which is primarily silver or gold in colour and which you need sunglasses to look directly at, he is gay.
  2. If he is wearing any item of clothing which has a picture of a wolf, a snake, a bear, a lion, any metal band, any punk band or any grunge band emblazoned on it, he is straight.
  3. If he is sat with a girl and she alternately looks at him balefully, then turns her head a full 90-degrees and huffs, he is straight.
  4. If he is eating a pie bigger than his fist and drinking a can of super-strength lager, he is straight.
  5. If he is eating a little box of pre-cut carrots and reading Stylist magazine, he is gay.
  6. If he is playing a computer game on his phone and keeps wiping his nose with the back of his hand between levels, he is straight.
  7. If he looks sheepishly into the middle distance when you make eye contact for more than two seconds as though the mere fact that you have looked at him might infect him with dangerous levels of gay, he is straight.
  8. If he stares at you wild-eyed, like a hungry wolf with the tiniest hint of a smile on his lips, he is gay. And scary. Get off the tube. Unless you like being eaten alive. Some guys like that. You guys, stay on the tube.
  9. If he meets your gaze, then holds eye contact, then turns away and does something between a smirk and a grin, he is straight. He just got off on the fact that you checked him out.
  10. If he holds your eye-contact for two seconds, then looks down, then looks back at you and repeats this whole process again, he is gay, slightly shy without being a wet blanket, probably amazing in bed, well-adjusted, funny, sexy and kind as well as striking the perfect balance between vulnerability, sensitivity and masculinity. You should probably marry him.

Disclaimer: There may or may not be some factual inaccuracies in this article. Probably not, but whatever.

#7 you can openly admit to having celebrity ‘role-models’

We all need role-models, especially ones who espouse wisdom and inspire us through their actions and indeed, their words. If you are a straight man, however, you are sort of limited with who you can acceptably adopt as a role-model; the chances are it has to be either your dad or a footballer, or maybe a brainy scientist like Einstein or Darwin – and if you are a bum, then probably some scruffy guy on a skateboard who I’ve never heard of. But if you are gay, then suddenly, the ‘role-model’ stratosphere opens up and you can basically take inspiration and guidance from the myriad celebrities whose wisdom knows no bounds. Here are three of the most inspiring:

Kim Kardashian

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I am like a stranded plane-crash survivor in the Sahara Desert, inches from death and desperate for water, only, by ‘plane-crash survivor’ I mean moderately bored gay guy, by ‘Sahara Desert’ I mean my bedroom, by ‘inches from death’ I mean inches from biscuits and by ‘water’ I mean Kim Kardashian’s Twitter feed. This is the elixir that will save my life. I know I will find wisdom here.

Sure enough, Kim’s most recent Tweet, in response to @kimkluva’s question “How much do you love your British fans on a scale of 1-100?” is “100,000 trillion!” To know that she loves her British fans (of which I am surely the biggest, so back up @kimkluva) this much is incomprehensibly exciting. It’s almost as incomprehensible as Kim’s decision to marry Kris Humphries considering that a) the top of her head didn’t even reach his nipples, and b) in all the episodes of Kourtney & Kim Take New York I have seen, their post-marriage interactions were all based on ‘trying to get to know each other’ and wound up with Kim weeping whilst her sister Kourtney remained grimly stoic, offering nothing save for several variations on the facial expression best described as unsympathetic with undertones of sibling resentment.

This lack of input from Kourtney was all the more troubling as Kim has no discernible personality of her own and was therefore forced to compensate by weeping at least once an episode and sulking at least twice to keep up what little momentum the show had going. Still, as long as she is shiny of face and round of butt, who cares about her personality? And this whole story is ancient history anyway. We all know that Kim has moved on and is now with Kanye and is due to give birth to their child. It’s a good job the little critter doesn’t realize how close to genius his parents are or he would probably be too intimidated to come out of Kimmy’s fox-hole at all. Anyway, I digress… Here’s some wisdom, KK style:

“I buy myself a gift every year, so this year I bought everything I wanted.” 

I think we could all learn a thing or two from this advice. This year, what better gift to buy for yourself than ‘everything?’ House? Check. Shoes? Check. Husband? Check. Botox injections all over my mug? Check. Personality? Check. Oh Kim. You are so much cleverer than the rest of us.

“I don’t like big balls on a dog.” 

OMG, snap. Neither do I Kim. And if they have to have big balls, can’t they at least wear pants or something? Or get a reduction? Or get some sort of testicle-bra to keep those danglers under control? What about cat’s balls Kim? What about men’s balls? More wisdom, more wisdom now!

“Leggings killed velour sweat-suits! I used to ONLY wear them until leggings came along.”

Totally. My wardrobe is full of velour sweat-suits that I just can’t wear now, because leggings (or meggings as us men have to call them…) just breezed in one day like a brassy home-wrecker with gigantic breasts and stole my husband (and by ‘husband’, I mean my willingness to wear velour sweat-suits in the wake of The Resurgence of Leggings). And all I have left to show for this marriage is an endless mass of velour. Oh well. I guess I can always palm them off on my maid or something.

Lindsay Lohan

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I love Lindsay Lohan. I love that sometimes she drives on roads and that sometimes she drives on pavements. I love that sometimes she exchanges money for goods and that sometimes she exchanges no money for goods. I love that sometimes she likes to sleep at home and that sometimes she likes to sleep in jail. She’s so cute. She’s also really smart. And spiritual:

“WHY is everyone in SUCH a panic about hurricane (i’m calling it Sally)..? Stop projecting negativity!”

Yeah! Stop projecting negativity. Hurricane (Sally)..? is totally Not A Big Deal. That’s why no-one has even heard of this stupid hurricane. Hurricane Sandy, now that one killed 253 people and caused over $60 billion of damage in the U.S alone. And it happened right around the time Lindsay put out the above Tweet. But she was referring to Hurricane (Sally)..? And that one was more of a gale. At best. I think a sapling got uprooted in Virginia or something, but that was about it. And that probably only happened because you all had to project so much negativity. So just have a think about what you’ve done. Listen to Lindsay and this stuff will just STOP happening.

“People go to college to find who they are as a person and find what they want to do in life, and I kind of already know that so it would be like I’d be taking a step back or something.”

Okay, this is a great piece of wisdom people. And here are the key points to keep in mind:

  1. The only reason to go to college is to find out who you are and what you want to do with your life. Pointless.
  2. Lindsay Lohan knows who she is and what she is doing. Don’t question it. Especially you, Federal Law Enforcement Officers.
  3. If you want to take a step backwards, get an education.

And if any of you are sat there smugly sitting in judgement of Li-Lo, just ask yourself this:

Who would you rather be; you, or Lindsay Lohan? Be honest…. I think we all know the answer. And it involves crashing cars a lot.

Paris Hilton

One of the great tragedies of my recent existence has been Paris’s relative absence from my TV screen. When she said “TTYN” that last time I saw her, I didn’t think she really meant it. Of all the oracles in all the world, none is as wise or as intelligent as her, as demonstrated by her assertion that “I don’t really think, I just walk.” I so get this. I SO get it. Because, like, what do I even need to think of anyway? If there’s a cute outfit right in front of me, I just have to walk towards it, right? Right.

Remember how once, about a million years ago, someone studied the lives of successful people and decided to make a list of the rules by which great men and women had lived, so we might all know the best way to approach life? Yeah, me neither. This is 2013 and there is only one rule. It’s called Paris’s Law:

“The only rule is don’t be boring and dress cute wherever you go.” 

See, the ONLY rule. If only Henry VIII’s second and fifth wives had known that, they would have woken up with significantly more head on their shoulders. If only Osama Bin Laden had known that, we wouldn’t have had to spend ten years smoking him out of his hole. If he’d just sculpted his facial hair, hoisted himself into a low-scoop t-shirt & skinny jeans combo and brushed up on his pop-culture trivia back in 2001, he could have done the Oprah ‘spiritual awakening/forgiveness’ interview and be spitting guest vocals on will.i.am songs now. Idiot.

“When people who don’t know you hate you, that’s when you know you’re the best.” 

And may I add, when people who do know you hate you, that’s when you know you’re even better than the best… Basically, the more everyone hates you, the better you are.

“Wal-mart… Do they, like, make walls there?”

Who cares that it is both the largest retailer and the biggest private employer in the world? Who cares that it is a byword for American grocery shopping? Does it have a branch on Rodeo Drive? Does it dress cartoon heiresses? Does it provide bespoke custom-design bodywork for pink Aston Martins’? No. So why should Paris have ever heard of it?

“No, no, I didn’t go to England; I went to London.” 

I don’t know what everyone’s problem with this statement is. Obviously, Paris is being subtly facetious about the fact that the capital of England is basically the only place worth living or even knowing in England. She has correctly identified that the rest of the country is basically pointless; it’s just grassland for grubby people with low IQs who wear only string vests and trousers made out of war-era sand-bags (aka Not Dressing Cute. Ever). And yes, I’m totally comfortable making that idiotically offensive generalisation. Because when people who don’t even know me hate me, that’s when I know I’m the best. Thanks Paris!

Follow me: https://twitter.com/ChrisJHalton

#6 you don’t have to be interested in ‘straight-man’ stuff

There are so many ‘straight’ things to not be interested in that I can barely decide where to start. It’s so liberating not to be part of a man-clique requiring me to playfully punch every other member in the chest or upper-arm every five minutes, either to express approval or disapproval or because he just took the mickey out of me, or just to fill a lull in conversation when no breasts are infiltrating our field of vision in the bar we are stood in. It’s so nice not to be expected to whang on about sport or women or machines of some sort. Being heterosexual requires so much effort these days. Who can be bothered? Luckily, as a gay, I don’t have to be interested in any of this junk:

Football

So when you are stuck in a pub and Man Utd are playing Man City, you don’t have to have an orgasm about it if your team scores or throw a fit about it if the other team does. You can just carry on drinking your gin & tonic and discussing how inane ALL men are, suffixing the end of each of your statements on this topic with “except for me, obvs” until your friend tells you that “you don’t count because you’re a total girl anyway.”

Objectifying Women

Because if a pair of breasts had a pair of legs and a head and some sort of crotch and arms, but no brain or mind of its own, then maybe this would be okay as a dumb way to spend ten minutes, once, until you realized how stupid it is. But as a way to pass the time every time you are with more than one other straight man? No. Basically, the game should be called ‘As You Have A Vagina I Am Probably Going To Make A Bunch Of Gross Remarks To My Equally Boneheaded Friends About You And Then Declare That I Would Have Sex With You Regardless Of Whether Or Not You Would Even Entertain The Idea. I Will Then Physically Evaluate A Bunch More Women And Get Really Drunk And Then Make A Pass At Whichever One Of You Seems Least Likely To Reject Me Based On How Drunk You Look And How Offended You Appear To Be By My General Existence.’ *

* If I sound like an angry woman, it’s because I hang out with angry women a lot. 

Power-Tools

Like, you know when you are home for Christmas and you tell your dad about how the shower-head came off the wall in your flat, and now the fitting won’t go back even when you use the drill. And then he’s like “but what sort of drill are you using? Is it hammer-action? And what material are you drilling into? Did you use a masonry-bit attachment?” And your mouth falls open a bit because he just said a whole bunch of stuff you don’t understand. And then he shakes his head before lecturing you for the next forty minutes on drill-technology and drill-management and drill-technique. And eventually your eyes turn into pickled onions and you wish you’d had at least seven shots of absinthe before you even started this stupid conversation.

IT Systems

You are trying to concentrate and look interested. Because the economy is all tits-up and you need this job or else you will Starve to Death. You are making wide-eyes and smiley-cum-intelligent mouth shapes at the interviewer in as non-scary a way as you can. And it seems to be working for a minute. But then he has to go and ruin it all by saying something about IT Systems as though they are actual things that exist within your sphere of understanding. At first you think you can bring it back. Just keep looking directly at him. That’s it. And nod. Good. But where is your mind going? It’s way over there in the pudding section at M&S. And now it’s sniffing around that man outside by the phone-box. The one who looks like what Dale Winton might look like if he was an entrenched heroin-user in a shell-suit. Turn around. Look at the interviewer. Look at the interviewer. But wait, did you see that? A fox just ran out of Greggs with a sausage roll in its mouth! Haha! What a coup! God, there are so many foxes in London. Why do they have to put such big windows in here? So distracting. I wonder how many foxes there are. There must be thousands. No, tens of thousands. Really, it’s surprising more babies don’t get eaten by foxes, considering how many foxes there are. We should be grateful. There could be scores of eaten babies every week. God, if they put their minds to it, the foxes could take over London. They could take over Greggs anyway. They could easily organise their own riot. Just think of all those foxes on their Blackberries plotting destruction on us all. It’s sort of cute really. God, I’ve got an itch on the sole of my foot. God, that’s really itchy. God, I can hardly keep my mouth closed it’s so itchy. I am biting on the insides of my cheeks. I wonder if I could slink my way out of that shoe and use the leg of the desk to itch my foot without him noticing? Is that an ulcer in my cheek? Keep looking at him. Eyes and nods, eyes and nods. I can’t wait to tell everyone about the fox with the sausage roll. That’s it, just ease your foot out. God, this shoe is really tight. Why did I do up my stupid shoes so tight? That’s it, that’s it. It’s nearly out. God, I hope my foot doesn’t smell. That IS an ulcer. And before you know it, you’ve gone into a one-shoed coma.

Golf

The best thing about hanging about with a bunch of straight men at work talking about money and sport and objectifying women is that at the end of the day, or maybe before that – you know, because you’re a businessman and you don’t have to hang out at work all day – you can take some American investors to play golf. And later, maybe you can take them to a lap-dancing bar in the city and objectify Eastern Europeans and plant grubby banknotes in their G-strings….

Oh, golf. Whatever happened to you? You used to be so wholesome and elite. You used to demand that the men who played you wore hilarious cropped pantaloons and did everything totally in black & white and slightly in fast-forward. And now look at you. You have become seedy and hyper-sexual. You used to be a jolly past-time for men with too much money. Now, you are foreplay. You are the pre-cursor to stripping urchins. You are to lap-dancing what nipple-biting is to full penetration. You slut.

DIY

DIY is for people who enjoy taking things that are unbelievably dull and making them into things that I can sleep on or put my pants away in. DIY is for people who DON’T care whether Beyonce is making a mockery of feminism by painting herself as a feminist role model in a magazine interview whilst simultaneously engaging in writhing-around-in-my-knickers photo-shoots for the same magazine. DIY is for people who DO care about cricket and want to hold actual conversations about it to other live human beings. DIY is for people who wear clothes that have been bought for them or donated to them instead of buying their own, and see this as a good thing. I am none of these people. I don’t even hang out with people like this. Ergo, I have to do my own DIY. Or go out with someone who does. Ergo, this sucks, for all the reasons I just gave.

Computer Games

You know what’s really depressing? When you keep trading glances with that hot quiet guy with the really bright eyes in your evening class and you’re thinking, ‘I think he’s checking me out’, and then eventually you somehow get talking to him and go for a drink and he invites you to his place, and you think you’re in, and you’re like, I like how half-mute and mysterious he is, it’s totes hot, and then once you get into his flat, it’s basically a giant bin and it smells like what old underpants would smell like if they were knitted from arm-pits and he sits down on a pile of rubbish and turns the TV on and starts playing a computer game in which he is a man with a gun and he is shooting lots of other men who are all droning incoherently and seem to have arthritic knee joints and faces made of eyeballs and minced-beef, and you realize that he isn’t gay, he’s just weird, and you suddenly can’t decide whether to climb back over the hill of vests and crisp-packets and leave or just lie down and wait for salmonella to crawl into your nostrils and kill you.

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#5 you learn how strong you are

Long before the twenty-somethingness of sitting around watching the X-Factor with your beloved, intermittently snuggling and inhaling chocolate biscuits whilst taking for granted the pair-of-old slippers level of comfort that goes along with it, you were once a mess. You were once thirteen and desperately trying to masturbate to Pamela Anderson in Baywatch to convince yourself that YES, I DO FANCY WOMEN. Only you always ended up thinking about the other lifeguard, the one who didn’t have breasts but did have honed biceps and hairy legs, the one whose character was drawn so thinly that his personality could have been spread on half of a wafer-thin cracker. I am not referring to David Hasselhoff (breathe easy, reader…) but to the air-headed pretty one, the one who may or may not have had a name, the one who may or may not have felt something or done something once, something other than running across the golden California sand in his little red shorts to save someone less attractive than himself from drowning. It really matters not, just as it mattered not to 99 percent of the show’s viewers whether Pamela Anderson had anything to say for herself, ever. As long as her breasts were fully-inflated and jiggling, as long as she was being given lots of excuses to run in slow-motion, who cared?

Well actually, I cared. Pamela Anderson’s breasts were meant for me. The pretty-boy lifeguard’s biceps and shorts-area were not. I know because by this point in my life I had already spent the last decade spending Sunday mornings in church, a place children are made to go so they can Stop Fidgeting, curse Jesus for ever existing in the first place and sheepishly shake old people’s hands whilst mumbling ‘peace be with you’ towards the back-end of proceedings. Jesus always struck my childhood self as a fairly frightening man, one of those people who always had a bone to pick with everyone. He most definitely would have had a bone to pick with me because he never promoted boys being interested in male lifeguards, let alone being interested in their naked torsos and shorts-areas. And neither did anyone else I knew. My friends didn’t promote it, society didn’t promote it and my family certainly didn’t promote it. In fact, the only person in the entire world who did seem to promote it was Julian Clary. This horrified me. It felt like I was about to be forced – by the catastrophic biological disaster that had occurred in me – to join a club in which the only other member was The Scariest Man in The World Except for Michael Jackson. This was not a prospect I could bear, so I took the only other viable option and turned to drugs. Drugs and denial and lots of self-hatred. And whiskey.

I didn’t really start to deal with my sexuality until I was about eighteen. And to be honest, I didn’t really start to properly deal with it until I was in my twenties. I didn’t come out to my parents until I was 23. And I can honestly say that the decade leading up to that point was, on the whole, incredibly painful. I made some of my closest friends during that period and had some great times, but virtually all of those ‘great times’ were punctuated by alcohol or drugs and were all preceded or followed by anxiety, depression, confusion, sadness, hopelessness and occasionally, aspirations of suicide. For a long time, I hated myself and I hated my life. I hated being gay and I also hated the fact that I hated it. I wanted to be fixated by things jiggling in bikinis instead of things jiggling in shorts. I wanted to be ‘normal.’

Adolescence is probably the most stressful period in anyone’s life because the transition from childhood to adulthood is so disjointed and complex and drawn-out. What makes it worse is that we have to go through it surrounded by the most critical, cruel and abusive group of people we will ever be lumbered with, our teenage peers. The period during which we are least able to deal with criticism, rejection, bullying and abuse is the very period we experience it most. If you are gay, then coming to terms with your sexuality on top of all this is unbelievably hard. I cannot speak for every gay person, but for me it was a challenge so immense that it almost broke me. Actually, it did break me. I had to pick up the pieces of myself and glue them haphazardly back together a lot when I was growing up. There were times during my teenage years when I couldn’t envisage how I could possibly be happy, or anything even resembling that. Ever. I couldn’t imagine how I would ever be able to tell my parents, how I would ever be able to tell anyone other than my very closest friends. I couldn’t bear to even say the word ‘gay.’ I couldn’t make sense of my future. I didn’t want to because it terrified me.

The key, ultimately was endurance. If you endure something long enough, have faith that the pain will pass in the end, and envisage what it is you want your life to look like, eventually the reality will start matching up to the pictures in your mind. And the great news is that there is a lot more acceptance and support for gay youngsters now than there was when I was going through that period in my life, back in the late 90s. There’s still a long way to go, but it is getting better.

One of the things I know now is that no matter what happens in my life, I will never suffer as much as I did during my youth and early adulthood. And having survived it, I understand that I can survive anything. This is an important lesson because I know that when something terrible or heart-breaking or tragic happens, I will pick myself up and carry on in spite of it. It will hurt me but it won’t break me.

My friends know me as a low-level worrier. I worry about whether people like me enough and whether I push too hard too soon in the early stages of relationships. I worry about whether I am eating enough vegetables and whether I will ever be able to fully stop smoking. I am anxious for the vagaries and the maybes and the indeterminables in life. But in crisis situations, I’m good. If somebody dies, I know what to do, I know what to say. If someone’s partner walks out on their marriage, I am comfortable with being the first one on the scene. If someone is threatening to kill themselves and needs talking down from the bridge, I can do that. I’ve stood on that bridge a hundred times. Metaphorically maybe, but I’ve been there. I know how it feels to be so tired of ‘this’, so hopeless about tomorrow and all the tomorrows that follow that you just want to sleep without any prospect of ever having to wake up again. When you know that feeling at sixteen, you’ve lived a lifetime already and all the suffering in the world isn’t going to pull you down as an adult, if you can just hold on and get past this.

It is true what they tell us. It gets better. It’s easy to say, I know, but it really does. And being gay teaches us early on just how resilient we are, how brave we are, how strong we are. How do we know? Because we are still here.

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