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We’re delighted to introduce the new monthly weekly gay Blog-Diary of Circa-Club’s ( the online club for gay professional men) high-flying yet low-lying membership secretary, Spencer – his life and loves, work and play, dreams and fears. It’s taken us months to persuade Spencer – to expose his business and social networking skills, celebrity lifestyle and mental inner cards. So, if you haven’t bumped into him at one of our Circa-Club events yet, do introduce yourself, next time – you might even get a mention! Though strangely hard to describe, he’s instantly recognizable

July 21, 2011

169 - June

Filed under: Spencer — blog @ 12:40 pm

Gay Drinks PartyRegroup my trusty ‘posse’ - Kev ‘n Em ‘n not-so-little Sven, even sister Kerry plus our dear old ma – for the 22nd 10k Walk for Life early June, the biggest and best yet. The annual 10k charitable jaunt takes in some of London’s most iconic landmarks, raising funds to help support the thousands of people living with HIV and AIDS in the UK. This year’s theme is, by lucky chance, my all-time-favourite film, The Wizard of Oz – cue happy homo-hoards of Dorothys, Scarecrows and Tin Men, not to mention a fair few barking Totos! Dress my own weebie, Toby, as the most convincing little Munchkin!

Bump into excited Inge at one volunteer switchboard shift – gushes he’s soon off to China! Seems the Chinese government has overturned its ban on foreign nationals with HIV entering the country, after a twenty years prohibition, also reversing entry restrictions for people with other sexually transmitted infections, plus leprosy. The decision follows a similar recent move by the United States. People living with HIV who seek further info on their right to travel internationally can contact THT Direct on 0845 1221 200, or email info@tht.org.uk, a once-again-shimmering Inge duly advises!

Boss in jubilant mood at now-monthly Monday morn mews meet. Is keen to expand Circa’s ad and sponsor deals so we can do even more with our classy gay gent community! Interestingly, a recent Stonewall poll (www.stonewall.org.uk/evidence) ranked Co-op the best company in Britain for LGB-inclusive advertising and marketing - followed by Absolut, IKEA, Lloyds TSB, Pepsi and Thomson.

Brush into Circa hero Peter Tatchell wheeling his bike through Soho. Congratulate him on his recently receiving an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from Sussex University, marking his 44 years of high-profile human rights activism! “After so many years of demonisation by tabloid press, right-wingers, homophobes and even by some people on the left and in the LGBT community,” coos he, “this recognition is much appreciated,” carrying on to slam Archbishop Rowan Williams for “putting church unity before human rights” and Pope Benedict XVI for “colluding with criminal acts by refusing to open the Vatican’s secret sex abuse files and handing them over to relevant police authorities world-wide.” Does this guy never stop?!

Spend a very pleasant afternoon perusing the newly-moved Lesbian & Gay Newsmedia Archive (LAGNA, www.lagna.org.uk). Previously housed in North London - now at the Bishopsgate Institute, nearer London’s centre - it holds almost 200,000 LGBT-related press cuttings from the mainstream media, from the mid-19th Century onwards; and boasts a reference library, photos and even badge/T-shirt collection. Mainly used by researchers, it’s actually open to all, and worth a wee browse. Fascinating, oft heart-rending, real-life stories abound! Nutty Neighbour and I use fab St Stephen’s Club Circa meet to round up Josh ‘n Karl, even Charlie ‘n Boy – who seem to be back on speaking terms, albeit via third parties – to plan which Pride London Festival (24 June – 3 July, www.pridelondon.org) gems to check out. The UK’s largest LGBT arts celebration is crammed with a fab programme of music, theatre, dance, comedy, visual arts, sport, debate, film, fashion and literature events across the capital – all culminating in the main parade and rally, early July.

Use monthly Circa-branded Capital Queer column to ask whether the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ sweeping much of North Africa and the Middle East will actually end up being a good thing for gays – as homophobic regimes cling on and clamp down; and as new, supposedly-democratic, yet still oft male-dominated and highly religious, governments continue to ignore, and abuse, the rights of LGBTs, women and such.

Amused and appalled – mainly the latter – pawing papers with fluff-balls Mous ‘n Cous in bed one sunny Sunday morning. Read of Tokyo governor, Shintaro Ishihara, saying, “Japan has become far too untamed. We have got homosexuals casually appearing even on television. I think they have something missing from them somehow. It may be genetic.” Plus 74-year old media mogul millionaire Italian PM, Silvio Berlusconi – himself currently on trial for tax fraud, and also charged with having sex with an underage prostitute - telling a Catholic conference in Milan: “Gays will never have marriages equal to traditional family values. This government will not allow singles or gays to adopt.” Plus Daily Mail columnist, Melanie Phillips opining, of government-backed plans by gay education campaigners to encourage schools to make maths and other lessons more gay-inclusive: “This is but the latest attempt to brainwash children with propaganda. It is an abuse of childhood. It’s all part of the ruthless campaign by the gay rights lobby to destroy the very ­concept of normal sexual behaviour.”

Jump on Eurostar, month-end, to visit the unlikely old-world gay Belgian Mecca that is Ghent. Oft living in the shadow of other Flanders’ gems, Antwerp and Bruges, modest Ghent - with its lofty towers, quaint cobbled streets and winding canals, plus compact gay scene - has much to shout about! This one-time wealthy medieval town – once Europe’s largest cloth producer and Europe’s biggest city outside Paris – fortunately survived both World Wars pretty much intact, and now boasts over 900 listed buildings, more than any other Belgian city. Populated since prehistoric times; settled by the Romans at the confluence of the rivers Scheldt and Leie; a religious and commercial hub in the Middle Ages, notable for textile production, using imported English wool; part of the French Empire in the late-18th / early-19th Century, its cotton mills making it “the Manchester of the Continent” - today, capital of East-Flanders, Ghent, has a population of 250,000. It may be a medieval city, but its natural beauty is yet further enhanced by 45,000 youthful term-time students, many utterly gay and hanging out amidst the Old Town’s bijou clutch of queer bars!

June 9, 2011

168 - May

Filed under: Spencer — blog @ 9:35 am

Gay Drinks PartyBolly sparkling and swilling around like nobody’s business at monthly Monday morning mews meet with Boss – Boss in particularly good mood that the membership ‘pool’ appears to be healthily ‘diverse’, all ages and races. We’re fully backing gay men’s health charity GMFA’s latest campaign to tackle racism on the gay scene - evidence suggesting some gay folk from ethnic minorities alas experience prejudice even whilst out and about in gay clubs/bars, or cruising online. Some LGBTs, above all, really should know better!

Muster a posse to join 500 others on Stonewall’s annual Brighton Equality Walk early May - a jolly 10k jaunt along the sea-front, and through Brighton’s gay village - helping raise over £50k for the LGB mega-charity’s work to tackle discrimination and bullying in Britain’s schools. Nutty Neighbour, inseparable Josh ‘n Karl, sister Kerry ‘n our newly-lesbian mum, Kev ‘n Em ‘n not-so-little Sven – even my very own weebie Toby ‘n his mum Sue – all mingle and saunter along happily with the likes of Coronation Street star Charlie Condou, and Lip Service’s Heather Peace.

Palpable sense of relief amongst some of our older members at fab St Stephen’s Club Circa meet - many greatly welcoming provisions in the draft Freedom Bill to erase old, now-outdated pre-1967 convictions for consensual gay sex from police records. As one of our more elderly gents said: “It’s only right that I should be free to apply for jobs and voluntary roles without fearing that these historic and unjust convictions will be revealed through criminal record checks.” Pinkies crossed the law indeed passes. Our tabloid hack meantime enthralls some of the younger crowd with his usual celeb goss. Seems Leonardo DiCaprio is set to play the FBI’s first chief, gay J Edgar Hoover, in a biopic directed by Clint Eastwood, penned by Milk writer Dustin Lance Black, and co-starring Judi Dench, as Hoover’s mum - the film purportedly to portray Hoover struggling with sexual feelings for his protégé, Clyde Tolson, close to whom he was buried. Also: asked during a recent interview how he would feel if his daughter brought a woman home, Jonathan Ross – who was, not so long ago, criticised by campaigners for joking about gay children being adopted - replied: “Well, my eldest daughter is gay, so that’s a question I’ve dealt with already. Providing it’s a nice woman, I’m thrilled.”

Bump into Inge at Switchboard stint. He’s been busy helping Terrence Higgins Trust (THT) launch a campaign encouraging gay men to share their experiences of taking an HIV test. ‘I Did It’ is a one-stop-shop for info and advice around HIV testing - including where men can find their nearest clinic and what to expect when they arrive. Men who have already tested - whatever their result - can add their story to a searchable map of the UK, so others can find info on testing in their area. Currently, in the UK, 1 in 4 gay men with HIV remain undiagnosed, posing a serious risk to their health. They are also three times more likely to pass the virus on than men who have been diagnosed and started on treatment. To submit your anonymous story, visit www.ididit.org.uk and complete a short form.

Use IDAHO (International Day Against Homophobia) mid-month as hook for monthly Circa-branded Capital Queer column, highlighting the fact that it’s 2011, and yet 76 countries still criminalise private consensual sexual acts between persons of the same sex over the age of consent – according to the latest edition of ILGA’s annual State Sponsored Homophobia report. Nations that still go as far as to put people to death for their sexual orientation are Iran, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen - plus some parts of Nigeria and Somalia. Russia and Ukraine come bottom in Europe, just above the likes of Armenia, Belarus, Cyprus, Latvia, Macedonia, Moldova, Poland and Turkey.

Amused and appalled pawing papers in bed with Mous ‘n Cous one Sunday morn. Read FIFA president Sepp Blatter’s apparent initial jaw-dropping quip, when asked about gay football fans who might wish to visit homophobic Qatar for the 2022 World Cup: “I would say they should refrain from any sexual activities.” Also spy that a male pair of gay vultures at a German zoo have had their nest split up so one can – somehow - be mated with a female, the curator at the Allwetter Zoo in Münster seemingly mitigating: “They weren’t happy as a gay couple anyway – the other vultures picked on them and stole their nest materials.” And that the Czech Republic has apparently been using “phallometric testing” to supposedly check whether people seeking asylum on the grounds they are gay are in fact straight and lying, according to the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights. The technique tests the blood-flow in the penis whilst the male subject is watching straight porn, and failure to comply with this procedure is generally interpreted as an admission of deceit.

End the month enjoying an extreme non-scene. 10½ miles long, up to a mile wide and, in places, 220 feet deep: Lake Windermere is the largest natural lake in England - formed by two glaciers during the last major ice age, 13,000 years ago. In the county of Cumbria, entirely within the Lake District National Park, it contains 18 islands. In the late 19th Century, wealthy Lancashire businessmen built grand mansions overlooking the lake, many of which now flourish as hotels. Of course, while there is no overt gay scene in these parts to speak of – surely, for some, the main attraction – you will be sure to find a warm same-sex welcome throughout. And, naturally, these days, restless single fellows can invariably all-too-readily meet other like-minded locals online! Hook up with a couple of especially dishy Cumbrian Circa members.

 

May 16, 2011

167 - April

Filed under: Spencer — blog @ 12:29 pm

Gay Drinks PartyUp from Essex for the month, staying with me in my Soho pad, my newly-lesbian mum joyfully looks after my weebie Toby, who I also have staying with me over Easter, whilst sister Kerrie and I get a nice big dose of gay culture – including a few celluloid gems at the albeit-scaled-back London LGBT Film Festival (http://www.bfi.org.uk/llgff); plus a fab mid-month concert by the excellent London Gay Symphony Orchestra (http://www.lgso.org.uk), including narration by a personal favourite of mine - the intelligent, erudite and eloquent gay gent that is Simon Callow.

Catch up with inseparable Josh ‘n Karl plus estranged Charlie ‘n Boy at buzzing informal Circa meet at our bishop member’s in Highgate. After his usual two bottles of fine wine, our host-of-the-cloth hits full flow, confessing himself “highly amused” that lesbian comic and doyen Amy Lamé has been urging people to state their religion as ‘lesbian’ under the ‘other’ category in the recent Census – to protest at the absence of a question on sexual orientation. The Right Rev is also clearly a tad tickled re Rev David Gilmore, rector of St Anne’s Anglican Church in London’s Soho – for getting himself sacked for “inappropriate” conduct after sexually propositioning a gay couple who were staying at his rectory a few months back. Apparently, a tribunal heard how he entered the couple’s bedroom, naked, during the night - when he could hear them having sex - asking to sleep with them! Our by-now-merry bishop well-nigh collapses in a hysterical holy heap whilst relating the tale!

Bump into still-mighty Inge at Switchboard, where our shifts sometimes cross. Tells me, somewhat anxiously, that scientists in the US are claiming that oral cancer due to HPV (human papilloma virus) infection is now more common than oral cancer from tobacco use. There are up to 150 different types of HPV - ranging from the relatively benign, causing genital warts, to other more high-risk varieties, that can cause oral, anal, vaginal or penile cancers. Sexually-transmitted HPV infections are common and often asymptomatic.

Use monthly Circa-branded Capital Queer column to ask: Are gay-only hotels harmless valid havens, or just as discriminatory as straight-only ones? Seems the Equality & Human Rights Commission has announced that it is to investigate gay-only hotels for possible breaches of equality law – to ensure an “objective balance”, after investigating Christian-run hotels which bar same-sex couples. Some gay hotel owners claim being forced to host straight customers could harm business.

As is my weekend wont, amused and alarmed in equal measure pawing papers in bed with purring fluff-balls Mous ‘n Cous one fine Sunday morn. Read that David Dominguez - the police chief of supposed gay haven, Palm Springs - has announced he is taking “early retirement” after ordering a widely-criticised undercover entrapment operation targeting gay tourists in hotel and resort car parks, in which 19 people were arrested for indecent exposure. According to one lawyer: “[A plain-clothes cop] would flirt for as long as it took to persuade the target to undress, and then handcuff him.” Also spy that one 34-year old Carl Redford claims he had a four-year fling with Raoul Moat - who killed himself last July, after murdering his ex-girlfriend’s new partner, injuring her herself and blinding a cop - the pair allegedly having sex up to three times a week. And that, whilst filming in Uganda for a BBC3 show about the country’s attitudes to homosexuality, gay Radio 1 DJ, Scott Mills, was – for a “hefty charge” - stripped to his waist, spat on by a witchdoctor and battered with chickens, to try to rid him of his “sickness”. Mills - who remains gay - comments: “Bizarre is an understatement.”

Also spend part of the month in Wales, pal Nutty in tow – starting on the central West Wales coast in student-thronging Aberystwyth, which enjoys one of the UK’s most spectacular locations, locked-in landwards by the Cambrian Mountains and Rheidol Valley, facing outwards to majestic Cardigan Bay and the Irish Sea. Despite being established over 700 years ago by English invader Edward I, ironically, these days, many “Aber fans” see it as being the undoubted “cultural capital of Wales” – home not just to the National Library of Wales, and the very first college of the University of Wales, but also to Wales’ largest Arts Centre. Moreover, being a uni town, its resident population of just 16,000 is fair swollen with young student talent, term-time: all 8,000 of ‘em! A true area of outstanding natural beauty! We then head up-coast to predominantly Welsh-speaking 70,000-populated Anglesey - the 20 by 30 mile slab of natural wonder, beloved of Druids, Romans, Vikings, Saxons and Normans alike - just across the imposing Menai (Suspension) Bridge, or tad more recent Britannia (Road-Rail) Bridge. Have fab time at first ever North Wales Mardi Gras (www.northwalesmardigras.com), a two-day queer carnival likewise attracting heaps of young local lilting Welsh stunners with dark hair and eyes, high cheekbones and strong jaws to die upon.

Shakesqueer

Filed under: Editor's Column (Gay Lifestyle) — blog @ 12:21 pm

With the Royal Shakespeare Company now celebrating its 50th anniversary, its main theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon newly revamped, Adrian Gillan asks: was Shakespeare bi, or even full-on ‘gay’?

Shakespeare wrote 154 sonnets (quite possibly not intended for their 1609 publication, by a notoriously unscrupulous publisher), the vast majority (126) seemingly addressing the love of ‘the Poet’ for a young man, ‘the Fair Lord’, often assumed to be the same person as the ‘Mr W.H.’ to whom the sonnets are dedicated: perhaps one of Shakespeare’s patrons – most likely either Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton; or William Herbert, 3rd Earl of Pembroke, both considered handsome in their youth.

The Bard himself being a married man with several children, the sonnets have thus led some to suggest Shakespeare was, at the very least, bisexual, if not actually fully homosexual.

Against this, others counter that Shakespeare was not expressing his own feelings here, but merely those of a character, ‘the Poet’; or, if he was, that many of the frequent tender gushing expressions of love for, and admiration for the beauty of, ‘the Fair Lord’ (most famously, ‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?’) are made on a purely platonic, non-sexual, level, in a manner now alien to us.

Moreover, the only completely explicit references to sexual acts or physical lust occur in ‘the Dark Lady’ sonnets, which unambiguously state that ‘the Poet’ and ‘the Dark Lady’ are lovers.

The debate will rage and the best, surely only, answer we can hope for, at this distance of time, lies in the sonnets themselves. Read and place your bets. Having so done myself, this humble writer thinks it beyond all reasonable doubt that Shakespeare was hopelessly, helplessly besotted by another male - the sonnets being his heartfelt, oft-anguished and well-nigh obsessive love-letters to him.

April 25, 2011

Dear Mum

Filed under: Editor's Column (Gay Lifestyle) — blog @ 1:23 pm

With Mother’s Day this month (3 April), Adrian Gillan talks to gay men about that “special relationship” with their mums, after asking Jenny Broughton from FFLAG (Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays) what she thinks.

“Gay sons are a bonus to their mums”, assures Jenny Broughton of FFLAG (Families & Friends of Lesbians & Gays), the proud mother of a lesbian herself and agony aunt to thousands of anxious mamas and papas over now decades.

“It’s not mere cliché that gay men are especially close to their mothers,” she contends. “Maybe it’s because gay men don’t always have their own family unit and so stay closer to the birth family and not least their mother. But I’m not talking ‘mummy’s boy’ here: gay sons are very much their own person.”

Relates she: “Gay men often come out to mothers before anyone else. Many fear their father’s reaction so only come out to mum which can make it quite hard and isolating for her. Of course, mothers often know without you telling. I heard about a son aged forty six whose mother was desperate for him to come out to her. She’d known for years and didn’t mind a bit but couldn’t persuade him!”

“Come out to your mum on Mother’s Day?” muses our Jenny. “I’ve never heard anyone do that! Christmas Day: yes. Birthdays and anniversaries: all the time. But Mother’s Day?”

MUMMY’S BOYS?

Alan

“I spent more time with mum since dad was always at work,” casts back 54-year old architect Alan from the place formerly known as Rhodesia, now living in London. “When I came home from school she was always there. I talked to her for at least seven hours a day every day until I was sixteen. So we got close. I think we emulate the butch-fem aspects of our mothers and can switch between them. Hence our flexibility: socially, sexually and morally.”

Shares he: “I was out to her but she always hoped I’d find the woman she wanted me to marry. Like: doh! But what the hell would she have done to another woman in my life? Ah, but she could judge character: we both disliked the same people - intensely.”

“I’d have loved to have taken her out to a gay bar or club this Mother’s Day,” says Alan, “but she is no longer with us. A drunken night at The White Swan would have been fun! She would have pulled the gorgeous men way ahead of me!”

Ross

“Mothers tend to offer unconditional love,” claims baby-faced 40-year old web-marketeer Ross from Manchester, now living in London. “Anyone is going to feel close to someone offering that. Being born was the last time most gay men were inside a woman and they’re happy to keep it that way, but it’s still nice to know there’s someone somewhere in the world who can keep all your problems at bay with that smile and a cuppa.”

He continues: “And I think gay men tend to be particularly close to their mothers, maybe because they more readily identify with a straight woman rather than a straight man, and your mum is - unless she’s lesbian or bi - the straight woman you’ve known the longest.”

“I came out to my mum on the phone many years ago,” confides Ross. “I said: ‘I’ve got something to ask you.’ To which she replied: ‘I haven’t got any money’. I then said: ‘No, it’s not about money. You know I’m gay, don’t you?’ And she said: ‘I do now.’ She took it fine: not as if she hadn’t guessed anyway. Though she was worried about the fact I may suffer the fruits of homophobia.”

“Can’t recall ever taking my mum to a gay bar,” he admits. “Probably wouldn’t take her to The Hoist but wouldn’t think twice about somewhere nice like The Yard in Soho. Don’t think she’d react at all apart from to ogle the gorgeous guys. She’s not really the bar type anyway. Mother’s Day? I phoned her up as usual, and sent a card - daren’t forget!”

166 - March

Filed under: Spencer — blog @ 1:17 pm

Gay Drinks PartyLunch with sis Kerry. Her old mag L.A.B.S. (Lesbian And Bisexual Stimulation) is now history. Her acting career has been faltering too, so - having done a part-time BTEC in “meeja studies” - she’s now “gone into film production”. Says she plans to turn the BBC’s recently-aired The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister - based on the coded writings of a 19th Century lesbian industrialist - into a big screen blockbuster… probably starring Dame Judy, who “loves to play lez”, maybe Helena Bonham-Carter as the younger Lister. The real-life heroine shared her home with life-partner, Anne Walker, with whom she exchanged rings. In one 1820 diary entry, Lister wrote: “I love and only love the fairer sex and thus beloved by them in turn, my heart revolts from any love but theirs.” Sis hopes to give mum a small part too, maybe an old maid or cook. iPod in hand throughout the meal, Kerry’s breath stank of booze.

Good Mon morn mews meet. Bolly all-round as Circa and Velvet (sister club) have over 100,000 membrs, subscribers and contacts – apparently many of the latest ones registering with us “from the shires”, following our recent efforts to recruit beyond big cities, to reach out, and help counter isolation often suffered by LGBT people in more rural areas. Boss - purring louder than a Birman on heat - also announces “early-stage plans” for a possible “value added” pet forum, having apparently discovered that the majority of members have muts ‘n mogs and such, even the odd snake and horse.

Wearing Circa hat, attend event organized by police to try to get more LGBTs reporting hate crimes. There were around 50,000 such reports last year across England, Wales and Northern Ireland – mostly crimes concerning racism, but with almost 5,000 motivated by homophobia, 300 by transphobia. It is unclear if the rise in these figures is driven by more incidents, or by more reporting. We can certainly encourage members to report, it being so easy online – at sites like http://www.galop.org.uk/. Nutty does so all the time – at least he did with a few recent, thankfully relatively minor, incidents at his “hole”.

Fab Circa event at St Stephen’s Club, Queen Anne’s Gate, in Westminster. Em kindly looks after Toby - who I have for a few days, and who can thereby have a wee evening play and wrestle with not-so-little Sven - whilst her bi boyfriend Kev and I pop along. The comp wine’s just the start of it as - post a tasty light supper (house wine very reasonable - £4.50 per glass, £15.50 per bottle) - we wend our way to Shadow Lounge in Soho. The Circa team makes everyone feel extremely welcome. Lots of new faces, plus old. Heaps of goss. Overhear that actor Kevin Spacey’s been winding LGBT activists up, for - yet again - telling media he refuses to discuss his sexual orientation, saying: “People who choose not to discuss their personal lives are not living a lie. I just don’t buy into all that ‘the personal can be political’. I think that’s horseshit.”

Recently-newly-diagnosed-positive Inge does a few shifts on Switchboard now. Says have been a fair few post-Valentine’s calls from men in relationships anxious about condom protocols with long-term partners.  Interestingly, THT has only just launched a new HIV prevention campaign aimed specifically at gay men in longer-term relationships. A significant number of HIV infections happen to men in a couple; thus the campaign urges them to use condoms unless both are tested - and keep using them if one or both are having risky sex with others. Men can get info and advice by calling THT Direct on 0845 12 21 200; or visiting http://www.tht.org.uk/. Inge says he’s even had discrete words with those seeming luvie-duvvies Josh ‘n Karl – and was curtly told to mind his own business.

Use monthly Circa-branded Capital Queer column to ask whether or not the Football Association is doing “sweet FA” to tackle homophobia in football. Recent research for Stonewall (www.stonewall.org.uk/football) suggests that anti-gay abuse in the national game has been witnessed by 7 in 10 of all football fans – and that fans now expect a tangible response, fast. Other findings are that 3 in 4 fans are sure there are top gay players; 3 in 5 believe that anti-gay abuse from the terraces dissuades gay players from coming out; two thirds would feel comfortable if a player on their team came out; almost two thirds think football would be a better sport if anti-gay abuse were eradicated; and - crucially - over half think the FA, Premier League and Football League are not doing enough to tackle anti-gay abuse!

Appalled and amused pawing papers in bed with purring Mous ‘n Cous one sunny morn. Read that - fending off sex scandals, most recently involving a 17-year old Moroccan belly dancer - Italian PM, Silvio Berlusconi, has told reporters: “I have a gruelling work schedule and if I happen to look pretty girls in the face now and then, it’s better to be a fan of pretty women than to be gay.” Also see actor Johnny Depp claiming Disney executives hated his character Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean, fearing the role was gay: “They just couldn’t stand him. They kept asking: ‘What’s wrong with him? Is he a simpleton? Drunk? Gay?’ To which I replied: ‘Didn’t you know - all my characters are gay?’”

India’s gay ban having only just recently been lifted, I decide, month-end, to jet off to capital, Delhi. Mercifully the planet’s second most populous nation is also the world’s biggest democracy. Home to a sixth of Earth’s people – presumably a sixth of its gay people too – the offending colonial-era anti-gay law has now been binned and, whilst still socially frowned upon, a small, fragmented and largely affluent gay community is emerging, not least in the big cities. Delhi’s scene is spread-out, consisting mainly of venues offering weekly nights, the most established of which is at Pegs N Pints, Chanakyapuri district, every Tuesday.

March 24, 2011

165 - February

Filed under: Spencer — blog @ 10:10 am

Gay Drinks PartyCycling to Monday morn mews meet, bump into my 59-year old friend and veteran gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, likewise riding his bike out in the early Feb chill. Tells me about the recent unveiling of a blue plaque to his good self outside his South London home, in Southwark. Claims he was “a bit embarrassed” at the honour - normally given posthumously - even alleging he “blushed”, adding: “You usually get a plaque when you’re dead - but I’m very much alive.”

Take my little Toby plus Kev ‘n Em’s not-so-little Sven along to another youth-focused Stonewall do - this time promoting their superb ‘It gets better … today’ anti-bullying, coming-out campaign. Even PM Cameron has recently joined other celebs – including Christina Aguilera and Antony Cotton - all providing reassuring online video messages (www.stonewall.org.uk/itgetsbettertoday) to LGB school pupils, telling them that they don’t have to wait for things to get better in their lives – they can be great now. Interestingly, the average gay coming out age has fallen by over 20 years in Britain, according to Stonewall’s latest online poll. The survey found that LGBs aged 60+ came out at 37 on average; whereas those aged 18 and under are now coming out at 15 on average! Doubtless still easier for some than for others.

Accompany Nutty to events linked in with the biggest ever LGBT History Month (www.lgbthistorymonth.org.uk), running throughout February, aiming to raise the profile of LGBT sportspeople past and present, as well as tackling homophobia and transphobia in sport. Re which, campaigners are “deeply concerned” by FIFA’s decision to award the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar, respectively. Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar on pain of up to 5 years’ jail and lashes; whilst the Russian capital, Moscow, has consistently banned Pride marches.

Fun Informal Circa meet around our Labour peer member’s, up in Highgate. Host says he’ll soon be inviting former BMI boss and newly-made fellow peer Sir Michael Bishop along to his soirees. 68-year old Bishop has become only the second out gay Tory peer – following former Press Complaints Commission chief, Guy Black’s, ‘elevation’ last year. Lots of goss… Sir Beville Stanier - Conservative grandee, friend of the Queen - has asked local police to step up patrols around his 2,000-acre Oxfordshire estate to thwart gay cruisers meeting there for sex. Josh ‘n Karl typically inseparable; estranged Charlie ‘n Boy mutually-avoidable, Valentine’s or no; bisexual Kev – entering a new gay phase, thus taking another night off from Em ‘n Sven to be here – much in demand amongst hoards of young ambitious male parliamentary researchers, all keen for a leg up, even over. Standing back a mo, I savour the unmistakable homo-hubbub. Reminds me… Polari slang - used as a private code amongst some UK gay people pre 1969 decriminalisation - has been placed on a list of endangered languages. Originally used by market traders and sailors, it has its roots in English, Italian and Yiddish, plus canal, theatre and even Gypsy tongues. Some words, like ‘naff’ and ‘camp’, have entered common usage – as much instanced here tonight!

Newly-openly-positive Inge still throwing himself, wildly, in HIV campaigning. See him trolling the room, handing out fliers explaining gay men’s health charity GMFA’s new ‘Count Me In’ (www.outspokenonhealth.com/countmein) campaign, asking gay men to make a 5-point pledge, running: ‘I will know my own HIV status; I will not assume I know someone else’s HIV status; I will take personal responsibility for using condoms; I will value myself and my health; and I will stay informed about HIV and how it is spread.’ Also: he’s backing the London AIDS Memorial Campaign (www.londonaidsmemorial.wordpress.com), calling for a long-overdue dedicated AIDS memorial in the capital.

Still getting loads of newly-diagnosed males through on Switchboard. Worryingly, not least outside the UK, a new worldwide survey of over 5,000 men-who-have-sex-with-men has found that fewer than half of them have access to basic HIV prevention and services. Only 39% report easy access to free condoms; just 1 in 4 report easy access to free lube - a quarter saying free lube is completely unavailable.

Use monthly Circa-branded Capital Queer column to ask: Is surrogacy ever a valid act of female altruism via which two males can become legal parents; or is it, in fact, more commonly a violation of inalienable rights belonging to the resulting child, any egg donor that may have been used and/or the host mother? Sir Elton John and partner have become legal parents to a son born to a surrogate in California - somewhere, unlike the UK and most other countries, where surrogacy agreements, including those made by gay and lesbian couples, are generally accepted under the law. Zachary Jackson Levon Furnish-John was born – some cynics suggest, rather too fittingly – on Christmas Day, and no details about the surrogacy set-up have thus-far been revealed.

Appalled and amused in equal measure, pawing papers in bed with fluff-balls Mous ‘n Cous. Read that a couple, still grieving over the death of their 20-year old son following a routine hernia operation last year, are now coming to terms with the fact that two children they had thought were their nephew and niece are, in fact, also their biological grandchildren – he, it transpires, having ‘unofficially’ donated sperm to his lesbian aunt, whilst aged just 15. He used to hold the children up to a mirror - seemingly joking “Who’s the daddy? I’m the daddy”, when he was merely asserting a fact!

Treat newly-emergent lesbian mum to weekend up in Cromer on north Norfolk coast, near month-end. Dating back centuries, 7,000-populated Cromer really came to the fore in the early 19th Century, as a resort for wealthy banking families, up from Norwich – a period climaxing with the construction of its late-Victorian pier and pier-end theatre. Enjoy eerie nocturnal cliff-top walk to working lighthouse, pre joining young, mixed crowd at The Wellington pub, where mum goes down a storm.M

February 11, 2011

Homo History

Filed under: Editor's Column (Gay Lifestyle) — blog @ 1:31 pm

With LGBT History Month (Feb 2011) again upon us, Adrian Gillan asks Who’s Who in Gay & Lesbian History? co-author and celebrated Australian historian, Professor Robert Aldrich, what we can all learn about the gay present from our queer past.

What has struck you most as you have studied homosexuality through its history?

The sheer variety of “same-sex” relationships throughout history is particularly striking: from life-long partnerships to casual encounters, from intimate platonic friendships with no stains on the sheets to steamy liaisons and initiation rites. And LGBT history is a way to “recover” a past that was often hidden, even denied. But it is also a way of gaining a different perspective on more general historical issues.

Have your studies given you any insights into the root causes of homophobia; and why on Earth people get so upset about same-sex relations?

In many societies, pleasure is considered dangerous. So homosexual practices – minus marriage, procreative sex and child-rearing – have been viewed as unacceptably hedonistic; and authorities have tried to control it. Homosexuality has also challenged notions of masculinity and femininity in places where religion, medicine, the law and the economy sought to maintain social and gender divisions. And many heterosexuals, including some of the most rabid homophobes, are afraid of “the queer within”.

What do you think was the most homo-friendly culture in “Western” history and why?

We mustn’t idealise periods of the past but perhaps it is the one that has emerged in certain parts of Europe, North America and Australasia in recent decades. Just think of the mayors or Paris and Berlin, “Queer as Folk” or the Sydney Mardi Gras. Though homophobia endures, never before have gay people been so protected - in those parts - by anti-discriminatory laws. From dark back rooms to the ivory towers of academia, much of contemporary “Western” society is remarkably open to gay culture.

And, historically, the most homophobic in “the West”?

Being a homosexual in places like Hitler’s Germany or Stalin’s Russia was life-threatening. However, some societies are ostensibly homophobic, yet a “homosexual” life flourishes. McCarthyism in America was an era of grim homophobic repression, but even there, gay men and women created opportunities in bars and bath-houses; and set up early gay political organisations and social groups. There may even be a certain frisson of pleasure for some practicing homosexuals dodging priests, parents and police.

How do you think current “Western” attitudes to homosexuality – particularly in the US, UK & Australia - relate to the past that has shaped them?

Albeit only in some countries and still partially, contemporary Western law codes have only recently freed themselves from the centuries-old influence of Judeo-Christian beliefs. Also, contemporary sexual cultures are often embedded in social contexts. Look at the exuberance of gay life here in Australia. Here it is linked to beach culture, to a certain “larrikin” tradition in Australian history, to the sexual experimentation in Australia’s past - in convict prisons or the outback - and to the notion of “mateship”.

Do you think it a blinkered arrogance of modern “Western” culture to see ourselves as more enlightened on sexuality than past cultures; or, indeed, other cultures around the world today?

Homosexuals remain unprotected from discrimination in many American states. In Britain and Australia there remain social vestiges of past conservative regimes. And anti-gay attitudes persists in many parts of Eastern Europe and the Balkans - even Italy. That said, many non-Western societies do practice even more extraordinary homophobia: the beheading of homosexuals in Saudi Arabia, the stance of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe or, indeed, the criminalisation of homosexual acts throughout much of Africa – the list is long.

Closer to home, few historians believe in a straight - much less narrow - path of history. Consider Germany. The first homosexual emancipation movement in Europe emerged there in the 1890s, and by the 1920s there was a flourishing gay and lesbian culture in Berlin and other cities. It all came to an end with Hitler in 1933: the Sexological Institute library was burned, the homosexual movement outlawed and thousands of homosexuals went to concentration camps. This is a reminder of the need for continual vigilance – even in the so-called “West”.

If you had to choose the four or five most significant homosexual figures in “Western” history, in terms of their sexuality, who would you choose and why?

Although I’ve co-edited a Who’s Who in gay and lesbian history, with biographies of some one thousand gay and lesbian figures, I cannot isolate a handful. We were not trying to compile a “best of” listing. Who is and is not important depends on personal perspectives and cultural traditions. Would a man and a woman compile the same list? Would a Spaniard or an Australian? Would a sportsman or a musician?

And perhaps we should also think of the countless unknown figures – the “average” women and men who battled discrimination and disease; who created a life for themselves and their lovers against all odds; or who expanded and animated gay, lesbian and wider culture around the world.

Robert Aldrich (www.arts.usyd.edu.au/departs/history/staff/profiles/aldrich.shtml) is a Professor at the University of Sydney and has written numerous books on gay history. He co-edited two volumes of Who’s Who in Gay & Lesbian History with Garry Wotherspoon (Routledge, 2001); authored Colonialism & Homosexuality (Routledge 2003); and edited Gay Life & Culture: A World History (Thames & Hudson, 2006).

Visit Rictor Norton’s magnificent online LGBT History resource: www.rictornorton.co.uk

164 - January

Filed under: Spencer — blog @ 1:28 pm

Gay Drinks PartyBoss in undeniably catty mood at first Mon morn meet of year – her planned epic Burman breeding programme on hold, several of her prime purring pouting furballs seemingly showing homosexual tendencies. “Something in the office air?” she sharply floats, eying Karl ‘n Kev - two of her larger male fluff-balls wrestling around amorously beneath the still-bedaubed office Xmas tree, her prize females gazing wistfully on!

Take my weebie Toby, plus Kev ‘n Em’s not-so-little-Sven, along to event promoting new Stonewall guide (freely downloadable at www.stonewall.org.uk/educationresources) giving advice to youth and education staff on how to support LGB young people - aimed at everyone who works with them, keen to help them grow and learn in a safe and supportive environment where they can just be themselves.

Nutty’s started the New Year in uncharacteristic fitness mode, resolving to get out from behind his ‘hole’ a tad more in coming months. Has joined the Tennis London International club (www.tennislondon.com), for a bit of the old ‘gay, set and match’, and some ‘new balls please’! One of the largest LGBT tennis groups in the UK, TLI provides a safe and friendly place in the capital for gay men and women to meet and play tennis - from grass roots up! Interestingly, tennis was voted (65%) Britain’s most gay-friendly sport in a recent online Stonewall poll - Rugby gaining 29% of the vote, with football voted the least gay-friendly major sport in Britain, attracting just 6%!

Lesbian sister Kerry, plus our recently-newly-emerging lesbian mother, have both joined the Diversity Choir (www.diversitychoir.co.uk) - London’s LGBT chamber choir, performing some of the most beautiful classical, religious and sacred music written for choirs, plus the best of other musical genres. Mum’s seemingly going down a storm amongst the contraltos - both on and off stage!

Wear Circa hat to an event promoting the National AIDS Trust’s ongoing fundraising drive. NAT (www.nat.org.uk) is one of the few national organisations focusing solely on HIV, and is seeking funds in what the charity has called a “very difficult economic climate”. Wonder if our struggling gay voluntary sector might potentially benefit by copying a tactic occasionally now used in Spain? The Spanish Lottery’s €3 million ‘El Gordo’ (’the fat one’) game sometimes includes a special ‘Gay Luck’ ticket, 80% of whose proceeds go directly to gay charities throughout that country!

Fab informal Circa meet round our gay bishop member’s in Hampstead. Usual crowd. Josh ‘n Karl still talking about potentially emigrating to warmer climes – Key West or maybe Gran Can. Recently estranged Charlie and Boy both in attendance, tho’ at opposite ends of the room - the latter pissed, the former eyeing up potential trade. Bishop in full flow after two bottles of wine. Says one Father Gonzalo Miranda - a “bioethics” professor at pontifical institution, the Regina Apostolorum University, in Mexico – recently used a talk to condemn his country’s capital for legalising same-sex marriage, claiming “a gay relationship is like decaffeinated coffee.” Mercifully though, I suspect most British Catholics are less bigoted, many seemingly largely disagreeing with such papal sentiments - at least according to a recent YouGov poll which found that only 11% of Catholics here believe “gay sex is morally wrong”.

Inge’s slowly but surely pulling himself together since his HIV diagnosis a few months back. Started to come out to his closest friends. Even starting volunteering for local HIV charities, supporting Terrence Higgins Trust’s campaign highlighting the fact that 1 in 7 men on the capital’s gay scene are thought to be infected with HIV – significantly higher than the rate for the general gay male population, itself estimated at 1 in 20 gay men nationally, and 1 in 10 in London more generally.

Lots of post-Xmas callers to Switchboard, some anxious they may have become dependent on so-called “party drugs”. Refer many to the Party Drugs Clinic at the South London & Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLaM - www.national.slam.nhs.uk/partydrugs/), whose boss says the majority of his patients are “young, well-educated, professional gay men”, many of whom “are dismayed to discover they had become dependent, not believing so-called ‘party drugs’ had addictive qualities.” The clinic is open to anyone from across the UK and offers specialist treatment and withdrawal for people with GBL or GHB dependence, mephedrone misuse, methamphetamine misuse, and party drug dependence. Also raise the issue in my monthly Circa-branded Capital Queer column, since clearly so timely, nay seasonal.

Appalled and amused by turn, flicking papers in bed with Mous ‘n Cous one Sunday morn. Read that Australian Olympic swimmer, Stephanie Rice tweeted “suck on that, faggots” after her nation beat South Africa in a recent rugby match, prompting car brand sponsor, Jaguar, to dump the 22-year old three-time Olympic gold medalist big-mouthed bigot. Also spy that Borat and Bruno star, Sacha Baron Cohen, looks set to play Freddie Mercury in a film about the late Queen singer’s life, focusing on the build-up to the 1985 LiveAid festival. Mercury died in 1991, of an AIDS-related illness.

Tired of airports, so head away tad closer to home this month, to Reading, whose gay catchment area takes in the entire Thames Valley, including Wiltshire, Hampshire, Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Surrey - even London for those all too keen to escape the big smoke once in a while! And whilst Oscar Wilde – imprisoned here between 1895 and 1897, when he wrote De Profundis and gained inspiration for his Ballad of Reading Gaol - doubtless couldn’t wait to leave, today’s queers come flocking in to enjoy a town, so much more than its eponymous annual sell-out summer music fest! Often boringly linked with the commuter belt, and the IT and insurance industries, Reading’s tottie quotient is as swollen by its two student-thronging universities as are its two rivers - the Thames and the Kennet – after heavy rain. The town is now home to a compact scene, plus a sizeable Pride (www.readingpride.co.uk) every September.

January 4, 2011

Blog 163 - December

Filed under: Spencer — blog @ 4:00 pm

Gay Drinks PartyNutty Neighbour pops round saying he’s “undergoing research”. Seems gay men’s health charity GMFA is producing a guide to cruising for sex that will help gay men “develop their cruising skills and make decisions that will protect themselves and their partners”, and is asking gay men, just like our Nutty, to anonymously submit their experiences - both good and bad, and whether online, in bars and clubs, or outside – at www.outspokenonhealth.com/cruising. Having outdoor sex is not illegal per se, reassures Nutty – who seems to have much of value to researchers; but participants do risk breaking the law if seen by peeved passersby; or, de facto, if they have sex in so-called public toilets.

Pre-Xmas Bolly bubbling all round at main monthly Mon morn mews meet, be-tinseled-Burman-flanked Boss fair exuding seasonal joys! Big visions for the future as champers likewise full-flows, ranging from a major “outreach” to recruit more remote rural members, to increased online activity, Boss having been especially impressed with Stonewall‘s recently-launched YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/stonewalluk) featuring clips from events and interviews with politicians and top celebs.

Highly enjoyable informal Circa meet round our new Tory MP member’s home in Chelsea. Reveals that a book chronicling the history of homosexuality in the Conservative Party - and how its attitudes have changed from the post-war years to today - is to be published in coming weeks. Apparently, Michael McManus, author of the book – working title, Over the Blue Rainbow – even assisted closet gay PM Ted Heath with his autobiography; and has been collecting some pretty juicy stories for this latest opus. Absent Charlie and Boy are still seemingly parted – the former back on the game; the latter back on the bottle. Or so says, Kev, who has popped along, “having a night off” from Em’ ‘n not-so-little Sven; and who might be entering another “bisexual phase”, he coyly confides. Joshua ‘n Karl as inseparable as ever, although formerly-gym-fit Karl’s now puffing out like a ball, and both are bemoaning the state of the country - claiming they’d leave for Italy tomorrow, if only their UK civil partnership would be recognized overseas. While EU member states are already indeed required to simplify entry and residence for couples in recognised relationships, regardless of gender, they are not yet explicitly required to recognise gay couples in marriages or civil unions – thereby leaving same-sex couples who visit, or move to live in, other EU countries without protection in areas like benefits, pensions, healthcare and non-biological parental rights.

Call still-down-in-dumps recently-diagnosed-positive Inge to draw his attention to a range of new online and face-to-face services being developed to help transform the way people with HIV manage the disease as a long-term condition. There are now almost 100,000 people living with HIV in the UK, with around 7000 more diagnosed each year – each new diagnosis costing the tax-payer £350k in associated lifetime treatment costs. These new services - due to launch early 2011, and developed by Terrence Higgins Trust - are designed to relieve pressure on the NHS and focus clinical expertise where most needed.

Heaps of calls to Switchboard from young gay males already stressed out about eating too much in the run up to, and during, Xmas. Yet despite their numbers increasing, men with eating disorders feel invisible and unable to seek professional help, according to research by the South London & Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLaM). It is now estimated that at least 10% of binge eaters, anorexics and bulimia sufferers are male. Whilst rates among men are on the rise, rates among women have remained largely static over the past decade. Refer callers to SLaM’s Eating Disorders Service: www.national.slam.nhs.uk/eatingdisorders

Use monthly Circa-branded Capital Queer column to ask, “10%, 6% or 1.5%: just how rare do you think us LGBs really are?” Only 1.5% of the UK adult population say they are ‘gay/lesbian’ or ‘bisexual’ in a recent Office for National Statistics poll. LGB charity Stonewall and the government currently use a figure of 6%. Other studies suggest the figure may lie between 6%-10%. Some commentators claim these latest ONS stats undercount true numbers since the survey uses the phrase ’sexual identity’, not ’sexual orientation’; and since, despite anonymity being guaranteed, many respondents may still find the question too intrusive.

- Farquharson claiming he actually called Stewart a “fat git”; and that two gay male American students from New Jersey have seemingly broken the world record for the longest continuous kiss - locking lips for just under 33 hours! Matty Daley and Bobby Canciello - who are apparently “just friends” but who dutifully practiced “for months”, supposedly to overcome “lockjaw” and “muscle strain” - hope to win a place in the Guinness Book of World Records once their outstanding oral feet has been ratified. Rules state contenders must not sit down, use the loo - or wear nappies.

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