Thursday, 18 July 2013

I'm Getting Naked (again), Folks

In May this year I did something I’d never done before. (Yes I know you must all be thinking there can’t be much left.) I read from my own work at Paul Burston’s Polari, a hugely popular, and wonderfully elegant gay and lesbian literary salon, which takes place at the Royal Festival Hall Conference rooms. Once a month Paul gathers together an array of literary talent, most of them published writers, many of them (like me) not, and gives them a platform for their work. It was a very exciting moment for me and my offering went down extremely well, so next week I’m doing it all again, only this time I’ll be naked.

For those of you who haven’t heard of it yet, Naked Boys Reading is a monthly event at Dalston’s trendy Vogue Fabrics, which does exactly what it says on the tin. Every month, an array of different types, beefcakes, bears, twinks, otters, butch femmes, sissy sluts, boys next door with an exhibitionist streak and lovers of naturism with a well-endowed library, will give in-the-buff readings to an audience of people into books and bodies.

Naked Boys Reading began when producers Alex and Justin wanted a new performance based event at Vogue Fabrics in Dalston. Justin suggested Naked Boys Reading, as a brother to the wildly popular Naked Girls Reading event in NYC (produced by friends of Justin). The event began last September and will be a year old this year!

The idea was to create a queer space where the arts and the erotic mingle - attending to each other in equal measure. The boys are literary buffs, naturists and performers, and they alternate between curated events (upcoming in November is a special curated event by Little Joe Magazine - and performer-chosen themed evenings. Each event covers a broad spectrum of body types and literature - otters, bears, twinks, queers, gender-fuckers, older, younger (18+ obviously!); children's literature, erotica, poetry, spoken word, biography and even a rather hilarious recipe.

This month’s theme is Leather, though there is no injunction to read anything that is specifically concerned with leather, as long as there is somewhere about one’s person or chosen piece a nod in its direction.
So, if you’d like the chance to come and see me naked and in the flesh, come down to Vogue Fabrics in Dalston on Thursday 25 July. It promises to be a fun filled night.
“If love isn’t forever, and it’s not the weather; hand me my leather.” - Tori Amos (1992)

The boys:
Denis Balent
Martin Lisle
Greg Mitchell
Brian Mullin


Sharon Husbands, host-ess
Duchess of Pork, Disc Jock-ess

Thursday 25, July, 2013
8pm (door opens 7:30)
£5 in advance (via
£7 8pm-11pm (night of performance)


Sunday, 14 July 2013

Doing porn - does it eventually bite you in the bum?

In the news this week is the story of young ballet dancer, Jeppe Hansen. Hansen was on a scholarship with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School, when he was told there was no longer a place for him, it having been discovered that he had appeared in gay porn movies, under the name Jett Black. Quite how the Royal Winnipeg Ballet officials discovered this has not been revealed, but the company has stated it has policies and procedures in place, that state that any dancer who wishes to partake in ‘side projects’ must gain approval from the school director. I do wonder, though, if the school would have been quite so intransigent if it had been discovered that Hansen was working as a waiter or even dancing in a fringe production of a musical somewhere,
There can be little doubt that it is the nature of Hansen’s ‘side project’ itself that is the problem, not the fact that Hansen, like many students, was doing something extra-curricular to fund his education. The problem appears to be sex, not only sex, but public sex, though we should remember that Hansen was doing nothing illegal. He was just appearing in a movie and getting paid for it. One has to ask if they would have had the same problem, if he’d got a role in a war movie which required him to kill and maim people. No doubt he’d have been given a warning and allowed to continue his studies.

On the other hand it is a little disingenuous of Hansen to refer to the porn he did as art, a statement that only serves to cloud the issue. Though he may have a point, I’d hardly call any of the porn I did art, and, anyway, the whole question of what constitutes pornography, and what erotic art, is probably food for a whole other article. Hansen banging on about his artistic freedom being breached hardly helps, I feel. The issue seems to me much simpler.

I certainly doubt the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School’s officials wrestled for one moment with definitions of art and pornography. They were just “shocked” and “appalled” that one of their students was having sex on film. But this is where I have a problem with the officials. My reaction to the news was, predictably no doubt, so fucking what? I would imagine he made a lot more money for a few hours’ being filmed having sex than he would have done working as a waiter, and probably had a lot more fun doing it too. Seems to me he was just being inventive. He was given an opportunity and took it.

Am I so completely out of touch with how normal people would react? Not as much as you might think, judging from most of the comments left by readers of the news article in gaystarnews, who all seemed to think the Ballet School over reacted.

As far as I can see, the problems society, and the mainstream media, have with porn are the same ones they have with sex; problems derived from outmoded religious views and the deep seated shame those views create.

Some of you may remember that, a few years ago, The News of the World revealed that Max Mosley enjoyed indulging in a bit of SM sex. Mosley, quite properly considering that what he got up to in his private life was nobody’s business but his own took out a privacy case against the News of the World, which he won, though, by this time, his reputation was in tatters anyway. The law agreed that The News of the World had breached his privacy by revealing his sexual peccadilloes, but it hardly changed people’s attitudes to what he was getting up to. Again, when the story first broke, my attitude was, so what? Why is this even a news story? Is it just that most people’s sex lives are so boring, they can only get vicarious pleasure out of reading about other people’s, and then, of course, condemning them?

On the subject of porn, internet figures suggest that most of us are looking at it, but very few would admit to it. We know that most of the people who have at some time looked at internet porn are men, (8 out of 10, compared to only a third of women), but it’s fair to assume that most of them don’t tell their wives or girlfriends. So, although watching porn is common, it’s still not considered acceptable behaviour, whereas watching movies in which people get blown to bits is. Taking the above figure as the norm, that would suggest that, out of the current 503 male MPs in the House of Commons, we can assume that at least 400 of them have, at one time or another, watched internet porn. These same MPs will publicly voice their concerns about the easy availability of internet porn and talk about ways of stopping it. Ah, how we love dual standards.

Returning to the original question as to whether doing porn can come back and bite you in the bum, then, I am sad to say, that in our present society, the answer is probably yes. In our gay world, doing porn might be becoming more and more acceptable, and indeed more and more gay men are enjoying sex on camera, many being happy to do it just for the thrill, rather than the money, but they really should be careful about who gets to watch it. I suspect many of them would lose their day jobs if their bosses ever found out.  Yes it seems totally wrong to me and I can’t help asking why doing porn can possibly be seen to be a problem for a budding ballet dancer. Are people really not going to go and watch him dance if they know he’s had sex on camera? I suspect the reverse would be true. Oh well, clearly society hasn’t caught up with me yet. So a bit of advice. Unless, like me, you can largely opt out of society, admit to all you have done and refuse to be ashamed, it’s probably best that, for now, you give up the idea of doing that porn movie. Either that or wear a mask.


Sunday, 7 July 2013

Why We Should Always Stay Proud

On the XXL Float Pride 2005
This is an article that was published by TheGayUK just before this year's London Pride. Pride is very important to me, and so I am republishing it here.

The year was 1993. I remember it because it was the year the Gay Slayer, Colin Ireland was embarked on his killing spree, and there had been many warnings for us to take special care while he was still at large. Even so, it had been a perfect day, and as the sun started to set on Brockwell Park with Jimmy Somerville singing the words, “As I watch the sun go down, watching the world fade away”, I had never felt so content, never felt so much that at last, I belonged. This was my first ever Pride and, unbelievably, I was 41.

Not that I had been closeted till then. Far from it, but I had never really fitted in with what I perceived to be gay life or the scene. I had come out as gay fairly late I suppose, at about 27, and, having fallen madly in love with my first boyfriend, whom I had met through work, went straight into a domestic, monogamous relationship. We never went out on the scene and most of our friends were straight. When that relationship finished, I went straight into another that was much the same, and then when that finished, I hardly dare go anywhere at all. AIDS was taking hold and sex became something to fear rather than enjoy. The gay scene terrified me and so I took refuge amongst my straight friends. My life became monastic and I practically gave up sex altogether. Looking back, this could well be the reason I am still around today, but it’s certainly not a time I’d like to live through again. In a way I was denying who I was, denying myself the right to be happy, to be considered the equal of my straight peers; and, actually, I was no better than the likes of David Starkey, who believes the owners of a B&B should be able to deny a room to a gay couple, and Andrew Pierce, who believes that we don’t need equal marriage. Urged on by my ultra Conservative mother, I am ashamed to admit I joined with those who condemned the opening of GLC’s  London Lesbian and Gay Centre, which opened in 1985, another waste of rate payers’ money by Red Ken. This was not my finest hour. I was no doubt suffering from the kind of internalised homophobia I detailed in my article for TheGayUK  earlier this year. You can reference it here.

You’d think that as I worked in an environment where it was ok to be gay (the theatre), I’d have happily embraced my sexuality, and to an extent I did, but I never felt I fitted in with the majority of gay guys in a company, those ultra flamboyant, often screamingly queeny dancers, with their hilariously witty, but often bitchy, repartee, and consequently I distanced myself from them. To be honest, they scared the living daylights out of me, and I tended to mix instead with the straight guys and girls in the company. It was safer to stick with what I knew, even if it meant sometimes tacitly colluding with the occasional unintentional homophobic remark. I wasn’t like other gays, so that made it ok. But of course it didn’t.

I’m not quite sure when all that changed, but, over time, I realised that something was missing from my life. I didn’t truly fit in with any of the people I mixed with. So it was that in 1993 I found myself marching through the streets of London with thousands of other gay men and women, with their families, and with their friends. I was surrounded by men and women from all walks of life, from the flamboyant to the ordinary, from drag queens to soldiers. I couldn’t believe the size of the crowd, and as I looked back down Piccadilly from Hyde Park Corner, my heart swelled with a pride I’d never felt before. I was not alone. At least for one day I could walk through the streets without being afraid of who I was.

I think that was the turning point for me. From that day on I became more involved in the scene and more fully embraced the gay community. I think I’ve attended every London Pride since, and been to a few more around the country. I’ve been involved in Pride in various ways too, from stewarding, to dancing on a float in leather, to gogo dancing in a shop window in Soho and then gogoing in the clubs afterwards. I’ve had a lot of fun, and of course Pride should be fun, but it is also a lot more than that. It is a chance for us to show the world that we are a diverse bunch of people, that we exist in all corners of life. We might be drag queens and leather guys, disco bunnies and dykes on bikes, muscle guys and formation dancers, but we are also policemen and firemen, soldiers and office workers, doctors, politicians and nurses. It is a chance for us to show the world that we are not going away.

 As London  is one of the busiest, most multi-cultural cities in the world, it makes London Pride important on an international level, so that those living in countries less tolerant than ours can see what can be achieved. Urged on by anti-gay religious groups, gay rights are going backwards in most countries in Africa and the middle East. Hardly a week goes by without some new anti-gay law being passed or some new atrocity against the gay community. Things are no better in many Eastern European countries. Russia has just passed more anti-gay legislation, precipitating a wave of anti-gay violence. Even in seemingly enlightened France, there has been an outbreak of violence against gay people since the passing of the equal marriage act. The Catholic Church’s roots obviously go down deeper there than most would have imagined; and if the recent House of Commons and House of Lords debates on equal marriage are anything to go by, there are still plenty of bigoted homophobes in this country, who will go to extraordinary lengths to deny us our basic human rights. There could not be a time when it is more important to stand up and be proud of who we are.

I’ve always believed that Pride should be both a celebration and a political statement, and have never had any truck with those who say all the excessive flamboyance at Pride makes them feel ashamed, the gay homophobes who believe we should play down our differences, who believe that only by attempting to blend in with the straight world will we get the rights we are asking for. Well I don’t hold with that. We should not deny that a large part of our community is made up of wonderfully flamboyant, inventive, artistic, talented and sometimes wacky people. When better to show off our fabulousness?  When the gay community stood up against police brutality at the Stonewall Bar back in 1969, were those drag queens trying to blend in? No. They were demanding their rights as individuals. So the media tends to concentrate on the drag queens and the scantily clad muscle boys. So what?  Being different is not a reason for withholding human rights.

If, like me, you have been to so many Pride events now, that they all start to blend into each other. If you are feeling jaded, or feel that it has nothing to do with you anymore, perhaps you should remember the reasons that Pride is still important, and  that each Pride will always be the first Pride for someone somewhere, that first moment when that person, whatever their age, can feel that they can be who they really are. Take part in the march, or just come down and watch, but, be part of it and be Proud!

Pride London 2013 Review

Well, Pride in London finally arrived, and after last year’s damp squib (World Pride, too, if you remember), it can only be accounted a huge success for the new team in charge. The theme of the parade this year was, rightly, love and marriage, for it won’t be long now before gay men and women will be able to marry their partners, whatever delaying tactics our opponents use. The tide is surely in our favour.

No doubt those opponents were praying for God’s vengeance on us, for, if not fire and brimstone, at least torrential rain to spoil our day, and, let’s face it, given the miserable June weather we had had so far, it wouldn’t have been that surprising. In the event, it seemed God smiled on us. London basked in the first true summer weather of the year. The sunshine brought out the smiles and, with it, one of the biggest and happiest Prides in recent memory. By report this was also the biggest and most heavily attended Pride in 10 years.

My friends and I were marching, leather clad, in the first section of the parade, alongside members of MSC London and Bluff, London’s two most prominent leather and fetish wear organisations. We were followed by the most disarming group of LGBT Filipino dancers, whilst ahead of us were a group of fetish dogs and felines, so there was definitely something for everyone. It is absolutely a tremendous experience to march in the parade, but the only problem is that by marching, you don’t get to see the range of people in the parade, nor get a feeling of just how big it actually is. Years ago, I remember we used to march down Piccadilly, and that was one of the few times you could actually get an idea of the huge size of the event, a truly exhilarating experience. However, there were plenty of photos around on facebook and the like, and some on the net (a wonderful series in The Guardian), that give a great impression of the sheer diversity of our community.

One of the most enjoyable parts of marching, though, is just seeing the thousands of people, gay and straight, lining the parade route, enjoying the spectacle; waves of positivity and love. People with their families and friends, all there to cheer us on. For those who say that Pride is redundant, that we no longer need it, this is their answer, and this is why we need it.

Before the parade started I was chatting to one of the guys selling whistles and rainbow flags, an affable born and bred Londoner.

“You won’t be needing one of these, mate, will ya? Won’t go with your outfit,” he joked.
“Hardly,” I replied.
He then went on chat to me about how important he thought Pride was, telling me about his best friend, who had just come out.
“I think it’s wonderful. He’s marching today for the first time,” he said. “I can’t tell you how important this is for him. I love him, you know. He’s my mate. Makes no difference to me who he fancies. I just hope he can marry some bloke he falls for one day. Have a great day and wave to me wife and kids if you see ‘em. Oh no, you won’t know’em will ya?” he laughed, and went back out into the crowd as I moved off to join my buddies in leather.

No doubt it was unbearably hot for those in full Bluff leather gear. I had shoehorned myself into my leather trousers, but had elected for just a waistcoat and armbands on top. The sun certainly came as a bit of a shock and I ended up with white rings round my arms where the armbands were and white patches on my body where the waistcoat went. Ah well, one has to suffer for one’s art.

The only dissent I witnessed all day was a small bunch of god botherers, waving anti-gay marriage placards. The police had kept them well back and out of the way, and, to tell the truth, nobody, not the revellers, not the marchers, not the spectators, was taking a blind bit of notice of them. You have to wonder why they even bother.

Once the march broke up in Whitehall, we made our way into Soho to see if we could bag a table outside our favourite haunt, Balans Cafe, for some well needed lunch. The management and staff had all dressed up for the occasion, and they all looked fabulous, particularly, Rohan, who has to be my favourite waiter in all of London, looking hot as hell in a hard hat, plaid shirt, denim shorts and boots. Sitting was not exactly easy in my ultra-tight leather trousers, but we attracted a lot of attention in our leather gear, with loads of young men wanting to have their photo taken sitting on my lap. I wasn’t complaining.

As we already had tickets for Summer Rites Pride in the Park, we missed the celebrations in Trafalgar Square, which were apparently superb. I really must get down there next year.

So, having got changed into rather more comfortable shorts and trainers, we arrived at a busy Shoreditch Park at about 6pm for what was an extremely well planned and organised event. Shoreditch Park is just about the perfect size. Not too big and not too small, and, with an incredible selection of no less than 7 Music Arenas, showcasing an array of London's finest DJs and Performers, who were representing some of the cities hottest club brands, there really was something for everyone! Aside from the Music Arenas there were also 5 licensed bars, a Fun Fair and a Community Market. Most importantly bar staff and toilets were plentiful, so there was no real queuing. So often at these events, one ends up spending hours in toilet queues or struggling to get a drink at the bar.

We popped into most of the various tents to see what was going on. They weren’t over busy to begin with. No doubt, it being such a beautiful day, the majority preferred to be outside soaking up the sun, and indeed that is where we found ourselves for the most part, catching up with friends we hadn’t seen for ages. Later on, the dance tents began to get much busier, as revellers soaked up the music, and danced the night away. I was also impressed with how clean the park was. Either, they had an army of cleaners running around, though I never saw any, or people were making sure they dropped their plastic glasses and bottles in the plentiful bins that were provided. Either way, it was refreshing.

By around 9pm, I had had enough. It had been a long day, my legs and feet were killing me and I decided it was time to go home. I had planned to go to the Hustlaball, but I was just too tired to manage it, and ended up having an early night. I’m sure I missed a great night out, but it was nice to wake up at a reasonable hour on Sunday and actually get to enjoy what turned out to be the warmest day of the year so far.

Over the next couple of days I scanned the internet for news of the event, but was rather saddened to see that the mainstream press had largely ignored us. When, a couple of months back, a few crazy Frenchmen turned up in Trafalgar Square to protest equal marriage, the press was full of it, but thousands march through the streets, celebrating the diversity of our community, approvingly egged on by thousands of spectators, both straight and gay, and they completely ignore us. One does have to ask if there is some sort of agenda going on here. As far as I could make out, only The Guardian on line printed a series of photographs of the event. I was surprised to see nothing from our usual ally, The Independent. It was also rather disappointing that the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, chose, yet again, not to attend. He pledges his support for the LGBT community, but has, as far as I’m aware, only put in one, rather uncomfortable, appearance. Time to get over it, Boris.

What was not dispiriting is that this year’s event has risen, Phoenix-like, from the ashes of last year’s near fiasco, and has been an incredible success. Roll on 2014.