Can Everton Jones find out how his father stole Emperor Bokassa’s diamonds and, more importantly, where he hid them; before the world and his brother get there first?
Click on the picture link in the sidebar to read an extract of my first novel, which was published by Paradise Press in August 2012.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

A Phoenix can rekindle a flame?

Yesterday a man with a beard put on a dress and won the Eurovision Song Contest. I’m being deliberately provocative here, as a Drag Queen is far from ‘a man in a dress’: a Drag Queen is larger than life, a Drag Queen is outrageous, a Drag Queen is in-your-face, a Drag Queen is definitley someone you don’t want to get on the wrong side of and, above all, a Drag Queen is dangerous.

I must say I have always regarded the Eurovision Song Contest as something of a joke, although I know many gay men who watch it avidly every year. It might in some way be considered one of the great camp classics. Yet UK performers with reputations to defend seem no longer to consider it worthy of their attention.

However in the homophobic backwaters of Europe several pieces of the former Soviet Union have taken the contest enthusiastically to heart and each year team up to vote each other’s acts into the top places. Until that is, The Russian Federation began helping itself to pieces of Ukraine, which rather took the gloss off their chummy legs-up to their neighbour this year. Well, at least we are spared the outdated spactacle of whirling sword-swashing Cossaks or balalaika bands or the Song of the Volga Boatmen.

But what we were NOT spared was the visible expression of intolerance in Russia, Beloruss and Armenia where online petitions have apparently been organised callling for Miss Wurst’s act to be edited out of the TV coverage.

Quite how they would do that now she has won I would be interested to see. A bit like when the Sex Pistols had a number one hit with ‘God Save the Queen’ and the BBC wouldn’t screen it. Or more recently when ‘Ding Dong the Witch is Dead’ pulled off the same trick, this time after an online surge of downloads following the death of Margaret Thatcher propelled it to number two.

Not an unreasonable link to make, as the Thatcher government’s ‘Section 28’ of the Local Government act banning the ‘promotion of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship’ eerily foreshadowed the new Russian law. Which I guess is where I’m going with this.

Anti-Clause 28 Demonstration, 1988 (source)
You see we thought we had won the big battles, back in the ’80s when that hated legislation was introduced. Gay sex had, finally, been decriminalised, albeit with an unequal age of consent, and we were working on that. Gay clubs and bars were everywhere in big cities at least and Gay Pride kept getting bigger and bigger every year. Section 28 was a huge wake-up call and brought together gay men and lesbians in a way we hadn’t seen since the seventies. And many valuable grass-roots LGBT initiatives were begun which are still serving our community today.

In this year’s Eurovision Song Contest the Russian contestants were loudly booed by the audience in cosmopolitan Copenhagen whenever they received favourable votes. No doubt the same people who were booing had voted for Miss Wurst. And not only because she had a wonderful song, but most likely also in response to the current Russian government’s hostility to the human rights of gay men and lesbians. And it is no co-incidence that the focus of that protest was a Drag Queen.

love the slogan on the poster in this snap taken at the Stonewall Riots (source)
Wind the clock back to the sixties in New York and a routine police raid on a bar on Christopher Street in the Gay Village in New York’s Soho district. That’s right, I’m talking about the Stonewall Inn. Drag Queens played a prominent part in the series of riots which followed over the weekend and the rest is, as they say, history (see the link at the end of this post).

An apposite image of Trade Unionists at World Pride 2012 in London (source)
Or is it? We all thought it was history and minced down Oxford Street in Pride every year to celebrate our newfound emancipation. And then Section 28 happened. We now have Gay Marriage in the UK, and many think there is nothing left to compaign for in this country. Never mind the arguments about whether as Queers we should be aping conventions of non-queer society – some among us would even question whether monogamy is normal – or even whether the previous arrangement (civil partnerships) were a perfectly acceptable alternative. (Actually it’s not often voiced but a UK civil partnership can’t be anulled on the basis of infidelity, and so this argument is false and betrays an inherrently homophobic bias in the legislation which isn’t widely recognised.)

Come back to today’s news for a moment and another victory can be claimed in the US as an openly gay American Football player signs for the St. Louis Rams. I say openly gay, as there must be many more gay footballers fearing discrimination and cowering in their closet. (And he had to wait until the last round of the ‘draft pick’, even though before he came out he was tipped to be selected sooner, so chalk this up as only a partial victory.)

Which reminds me that not so many years ago Justin Fashanu, a gay black soccer player in the UK committed suicide eight years after he came out.

And whilst I can walk down Old Compton Street (or pretty much anywhere in Central London for that matter) and do whatever I like and express myself without a concern, the situation is far from being so friendly in Doncaster or Bradford or any other small town you care to mention.

Homophopbia is still widespread and we need to continue the fight. The rights we have and the legal protection we have won is on the backs of Drag Queens and campaigners of all kinds bravely claiming their right to be who they are in the face of a hostile society, quite as hostile as Russian society today. And even though we have these rights we need to exercise them and claim them as our own.

Conchita Wurst’s slap in the face for Vladimir Putin should remind us all who we are, where we have come from and why the fight is important. Truly a phoenix rising again.

The First Gay Pride March in 1970, on the first anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. (source: pinkmafia, which has a wonderful account of the Stonewall Riots.)

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