Erika has begun a project designed to show gay women and men living lives of dignity and grace. Such stories, she hopes, will inspire those coming out, questioning, or who struggle with their orientation.
"Too often we hear stories about LGBT people being rejected because of
their sexual orientation or gender identity through bullying, hate
crimes and discrimination," she writes. "BGAI Togetheris
a grassroots storytelling project where LGBTQ persons and their allies
unite to counter this adversity with positive stories of love and
Erika wants your stories—published or unpublished—from your blog, clip sheet, hard drive or bottom drawer. It doesn't matter if you're gay, or a straight ally. She wants to hear the everyday tales of acceptance and celebration.
But hurry. She needs your submission by stumps on Thursday, January 14. Click on the picture for more details.
And while you're on her blog, read it. You'll be glad you did.
I’m about to witness a major social gaffe.An etiquette atrocity.A crime against the peace, order and good government provisions of the Australian Constitution .Proof that the universe is imploding.A herald of the Rapture.
It's like this. Our dear Betty is the Angelina Jolie of fag hags.She will adopt any nancy boy with a sob story.If you've been orphaned by your fag hag when she got a cat/hobby/boyfriend/life, call Betty. She'll let you cry big, manly tears on her shoulder.
I much prefer crying into her bosom, actually, since her bosom is supremely comfortable. Yours Truly is the only man, apart from her beloved, to whom she grants pillowing priveleges.
Betty often remarked that for a gay chap, I am oddly fond of a good tit.Then she met my mother, and recognized that two of the moons of Jupiter nursed me. She has since supplied her chesty charity in many moments of need.
The Wedding Dress. *sigh*
The problem has to do with her bachelorette party, you see. (In Australia, they call it a hen's night.) Thanks to a heady mix of Facebook and Renmano Sauvignon Blanc, Betty invited all her gay buddies. Ever the generous soul, she imagined they might enjoy the...um, entertainment.
Now, Betty's Matron of Humour is the splendid Arizaphale, who's crafted a loving tribute to the bride. She has written heartfelt toasts, assembled mementos of their shared youth, and concocted amusing parlour games which would reveal how much each guest knows about Betty's past. She thought up several witty puns about hens. But it soon became apparent that she had arranged no...um, entertainment.
Oh my god. Oh. My. God. Oh! My! God!
When confronted with her faux pas, Arizaphale pleaded ennui. "We good ole girls aren't exactly spring chickens," she wrote, warming to the hen's night theme. "We've seen enough cock to last us a lifetime, and therefore are less than impressed with it anymore."
I can make neither head nor tail of that sentence. Surely, the phrase "enough cock" is logically impossible.
The question is, Abby, should we gay boys take matters into our own hands? (And if we're lucky, mouths?)
Is it best to be subtle? Perhaps a hired hunk might stroll past and casually drop trou, maintaining it was a coincidence that he was overcome by a heat rash on his buttocks at that very moment?
Should we damn the torpedoes and get the guy in the cop uniform to do the whole who's-been-a-naughty-girl routine, even if handcuffs cost extra?
Or ought we do the job ourselves, arriving naked to ensure there are some ornamental genitalia on display?
Further, the couple's beloved dog will act as ring bearer. Technically, she's a member of the bridal party, too. Should we rent a Great Dane or something?
Anxiously awaiting your advice. The party is tonight, and the wedding approaches!
To a gay chap who's been around the block a few times, this sign on a door might indicate more than a men's room. It could suggest a meeting place for (from left) bears, twinks, and uptight straight guys.
Security at Marks & Spencer in Oxford Street, where this sign hangs innocently outside the lower ground floor lavatory, should take note.
In the eighties, Melbourne actors Nick Giannopolous and Simon Palomares were fed up.
Australian soap operas like Neighbours had taken off in the UK. Gloomy Thatcherated Brits loved all the bright, shining, optimistic faces. Such shows gave bread-and-butter work to many Australian actors—to some, even fame
Those bright, shining, optimistic faces were bright, shiny and very, very white. A Sydney casting agent once described the so-called Classic Australian look to me; tall, lean, and dark-blonde, with the hint of a tan. Think Paul Hogan, but younger.
Rebuffed by the establishment media, Giannopolous and Palomares made their own luck. In 1987, the pair teamed with fellow actors George Kapinaris and Mary Coustas to produce a stage show. They called it Wogs out of Work.
The show, from a comic standpoint, shone brilliant. The characters were fresh, outrageous, and larger-than-life. The jokes pulled no punches and respected no boundaries.
I still recall the final sketch, in which Kapinaris and Giannopolous played immigrant women at work in a cannery. The characters chatted as they performed their mindless tasks, speaking mostly of their children. In the course of the conversation, it became clear that they understood almost nothing about the lives which the second generation led in the New World.
The comics milked the material for laughs, yes, but amongst the laughter they affirmed a touching faith in the immigrant dream. That no matter how tough your circumstance, how mindless your factory job, it's worth it if your children can live better than you do.
Stop Laughing. It's Not Nice.
Australia's multicultural establishment was outraged. Many harped on the fact that the show contained ethnic stereotypes. Some acknowledged that the characters "validated the experience" of immigrants, but soundly deplored those who made similar jokes without the pedigree for it.
The multiculturalists saved their worst scorn for a very, very white comedian named Mark Mitchell*. A little after the Wogs, he created a character known as Con the Fruiterer, a Greek greengrocer who milked laughs from malapropisms and a cheerful disregard for the rules of business.
Amid barbs from the chattering classes, a curious thing happened.
Over a million people saw Wogs out of Work on stage. It spawned two sitcom spin-offs: an ensemble piece called Acropolis Now, and a star vehicle for Mary Coustas, called Effie. Real Greek greengrocers named Constantine stuck pin-ups of Con the Fruiterer in their shop windows, for a laugh.
Actors like Alex Dimitriades began to score roles in mainstream cop dramas. A certain swarthy Croatian standup named Eric Banadinovich (better known as Eric Bana) got his own TV show.
Notwithstanding the recalcitrant Neighbours, so-called "wogs" began to appear all over the Australian media.
Did it weaken some of the glass ceilings which NESB Australians faced in other walks of life? This recent article from Jason Di Russo reminds us that it still has a long way to go. But the ability to laugh at one's differences, and one's self, earns you a great deal of moral authority.
Di Russo quotes Italian-Australian journalist James Painichi on the Wogs out of Work phenomenon:
"They started off as buffoons when buffoons were exactly what was
needed. You needed that kind of a figure to take the piss out of people
while not taking yourself too seriously. [When] you're laughing at yourself, you get a chance to throw a few arrows in the right direction."
Why am I telling you this story? Because I recently saw Sacha Baron Cohen's movie, Brüno.
Wogs Out of Work, Fags Out of Drag.
Homocrats have made polite, but predictable noises. Rashad Robinson, senior director of media programs for the Gay and
Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, said to the Hollywood Reporter.
"We do feel the intentions of the filmmakers are in the right place—satire of this form can unmask homophobia—but at the same
time it can heighten people's discomfort with our community,"
Robinson was particularly skeptical of the way Brüno's adopted African baby worked itself into the plot.
"That wasn't really unmasking homophobia... especially in a
country [the USA] where same-sex couples can still be denied the ability to
adopt children that they've raised since birth. Trivializing gay
families isn't a joke."
You don't need to be gay to sneer. Brits seem to be OK, but the elite media in the USAviewed Brüno as debris to scrape from the bottom of the nation's cultural shoe.
Brüno is not a New Yorker cartoon. You don't see it and have a quiet chuckle to yourself, while nodding "How true, how true..." Brüno is a belly-laugh.
What, exactly, makes this concept so difficult to understand?
Anthony Lane, the New Yorker film critic, writes:
"In his relentless, unmistakably Anglo-Freudian insistence on the
genital and the anal, Baron Cohen takes the double entendre and strips
it to a single one, placing in full view what used to be a smirking
I'm not sure wat he means by this, but I think he means that Brüno makes dick jokes. And dick jokes couldn't possibly be funny, right?
"To be fair, the two young women beside me howled at the talking penis
(not a bad emblem of the average male, they would say)....Even so,
there was something forced in the women’s laughter, as if they wanted
to banish any suspicion of prudery, and to prove themselves far too
cool for disgust."
It's not the young women who are trying to be cool, I fear.
Frankly, dick jokes are useful. Nothing disarms a homophobe so much as reaching into your pants and flopping out the old fella..
That's pretty much what Brüno does when he interviews an ex-gay pastor—a target whom Lane regards as too easy.
Now, one could lure one's victim into a cunning rhetorical trap, fault his theology, and expose him with one's rapier-sharp arguments.
Or you could just point out that the guy is obviously still a flaming nancy. Too easy, yes. But really the only sensible answer to such blatant stupidity.
The New Yorker headlined Lane's review with the words Mein Camp. Must New Yorker types always see the world through a lens of camp, irony, and multiple entendre? Maybe someone should tell them that Brüno is a big, fat, fucking joke.
Should we take lessons in irony from a magazine that put the Obamas on its cover, dressed as terrorists doing a fist bump, and who thought it was funny?
Having seen Brüno, I can assure you the scenes of gay life are obvious
parody. As intended, they mock the haters who paint such a picture, rather than mocking gay life itself.
Outrageousness redeems Brüno. If you take it seriously, you look like the fool, not the clown onscreen.
Not 100% funny.
Of course, there are parts of the film which are very poorly judged, and offensive.
I cringed at Brüno's swing through the Middle East. The character can successfully expose hypocrisy about subjects where a gay fashion reporter is relevant—homophobia, or the shallowness of celebrity. But the scenes in which he provokes people of goodwill from both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian debate is not satire, it is mockery. It fails.
The less said about his interview with Ayman Abu Aita, the better. There were no belly laughs lurking there, let me tell you.
The Middle East is a hotbed of homophobia. Such prejudice deserves enormous scorn, whether through comedy or other means. But here, Brüno falls flat.
Laugh, and the world laughs with you
In the early part of the twentieth century, a short, scrawny Jewish kid named Melvin Kaminsky got beat up every day in his Brooklyn schoolyard. He worked out that a few jokes would disarm even the meanest bullies.
If they laugh with you, they can't hate you. Hatred doesn't crack a smile.
Today, we know this kid as Mel Brooks. And one of his favourite comic subjects is his own Jewishness.
Jewish humour teaches us about the role of a good laugh in overcoming hatred. Its gentle self-deprecation robs the anti-semite of his power. Should someone start to mock you, mock yourself first. It leaves the other guy nowhere to land a punch.
Just as important, the Jews I know seem very gracious about such ethnic humour. One of my Jewish friends remarked that he didn't mind if gentiles cracked Jewish jokes. "Many of them are quite funny," he said to me, once. "But remember, we Jews always have better Jewish jokes. That is to say, worse ones."
I'm a bald guy. If someone can crack a better bald joke than me, or even a bald joke at my expense, more power to him. But beware. I know some of the meanest bald jokes around.
I've tried to make subculture jokes about groups to which I don't belong. You know what? I failed.
Both Sasha Baron Cohen and Mel Brooks† have made their share of gay jokes. That's OK, as long as gay guys crack better fag gags than they do. That is, worse ones.
I can hear the outcry already. These stereotypes demean gay men. They trivialise us. They make us harmless.
Please think me silly, funny and harmless. It beats being a wicked perverter of the impressionable, and destroyer of traditional marriage. Just maybe, a guffaw works better for my rights than enforced PC.
Taking strides toward equality, one go-go boot at a time.
I understand how spokespersons for GLBT organisations can fault many aspects of Brüno. But I disagree with their fundamental stance.
Brüno follows the arc of a classic romance. Our hero abandons his shallow quest for glamour in the name of true love. He settles down with Lutz, his faithful assistant, and lives happily ever after. Swedish actor Gustaf Hammarsten deliberately plays Lutz without gay affectations, and the perfomance tells us that stereotypes don't always apply. Look closely, and you'll find Brüno becomes quite a traditional morality tale.
Earnestness has its place. But so does fun.
Have the nay-sayers forgotten the drag queens of the Stonewall Tavern, forty years ago, who made more progress for gay rights in one night than their assimilationist counterparts did in a decade?
Have they forgotten how much good PR comes from the sheer, outrageous joy of a Pride parade?
Have they forgotten that people love clowns?
Or do they look on "gayface"—which millions of gay men wear, in earnest, every day—with embarassment and contempt?
I ask you, who are the real homophobes?
* * * * * *
* Full disclosure: in my non-blog, non-anonymous life, I have worked with Mark Mitchell. Before he was famous, of course.
How do you feel about having come out relatively late in life? Do you feel like you missed out on anything as an outed youth, like you had to make up for lost time?
Coming out late is my biggest single regret.
Taking pleasure, and giving it, feels utterly natural to most people. But to do this well, and unselfconsciously, means that you’ve mastered a complex skill. You learn it best when young. Youth and love go together.
Learning to love, as an adult, is harder. For me, love is still a conscious act, not an instinct.
Love teaches us many things; charity, compassion, compromise, wisdom. It took me a long time to appreciate these values. And more than most, I struggle to live up to them.
The heterosexual charade stopped fifteen years ago. I quickly made up for the lost sex, but haven’t made up for the lost love. Perhaps I never shall.
When you came out to family and friends, whose response surprised you the most?
Nobody and everybody. When I came out, all my friends and family were supportive. Everyone noticed a calm settle over me, and delighted at my new-found peace of mind. They spoke with warm and encouraging words.
So it shocked me when I walked into a glass wall.
For example, a very good, very supportive friend—whom I love very much, and who has many gay and lesbian business colleagues and friends—gave Master Right and I strict instructions when we visited the family beach house. “I hate to have to ask this, but I want to make it clear.," he said. "Please, no overt homosexuality in front of the children.”
“OK,” I replied, “But please instruct your son and daughter that there should be no overt childishness in front of the homosexuals.”
“You know what I mean,” he muttered.
Naturally, I reassured him that I knew what he meant. But I wonder what he expected, exactly. Enema bags on the clothesline? Dildoes left among the bath toys? Fellatio while waiting for the toast to pop? Doggie–style on the coffee-table?
Maybe he imagined something more matter-of-fact. A gentle peck on the cheek to say good morning. A touch on the shoulder as one spouse asks the other if he wants a cup of coffee. One man placing his hand on the other’s forearm, as he stops his husband in mid-anecdote, to correct his memory of events. Or maybe it’s as simple as, in conversation, two men talking about each other as “we”.
This is not an isolated case.
Generally, such concerns evaporate quickly. My good friend, and other friends like him, came around. Much as people bandy about the phrase “overt homosexualty”, most sex, straight or gay, is a private affair.
In the course of a normal life, you can’t hide love. I was surprised how many friends expected it of me, at least at first. The idea of homosexual love challenges people far more than the idea of homosexual sex.
The photos in this post show a quiet evening last February, in and around Old Compton Street, London's gay neighbourhood.
Gay romance is tempered by a realistic understanding of male psychology.
Like any good stay-at home-spouse, Master Right fares me well every morning with a kiss at the front door. "Do your best." he says, in a literal translation of the Japanese gambatte. "What have you got planned for today?" I once asked him.
"Nothing much. As usual."
A smile crossed my lips. "OK, dear. Be sure to think about me when you masturbate."
"I will." he said. "Mostly."
My heart filled with sentimental goo. How sweet! Mostly! He always knows the right thing to say.
Let us segue, deftly, into a related subject. That Queer Expatriate reminds us that May is International Masturbation Month. At the annual Masturbateathon in San Francisco, a Japanese national, Mr. Masanobu Sato, beat his own record with almost ten hours of tuggery.
One would need to check his kanji to be sure, but Masanobu literally means "a proper hermit". Because Japanese has so many homonyms, it can also mean "polished knob". No, really. Check out the Denshi Jisho for masa and nobu.
Mr. Sato wanks for a crust, as it were. He's the leading stunt-dick for Tenga K.K., a manufacturer of masturbation aids—big business in Japan.
(Sato-san to boss: "I have some good news, and some bad news, Bucho-san. The bad news is that I didn't win. The good news is that I came first.")
With a tendency toward shyness, an ample supply of erotica, and many helpful devices to hand, one could conclude that Japanese men prefer a quiet buff to the genuine article.
So from time to time, on taking leave in the the morning, I will ask my husband to say hello to Mrs. Palmer for me. He smiles politely. But he hasn't yet figured out exactly what I mean.
May 17 is the International Day against Homophobia, or IDAHO. Originally a Canadian initaitive, it's been embraced around the world. IDAHO commmemorates 17 May 1992, the day on which the World Health Organisation de-listed homosexuality as a disease. The movement has gained momentum since the Canadian Fondation Emergence declared it in 2003 , and this year a number of European governments join NGOs in Australia, Belgium, Hong Kong, Costa Rica and the UK in recognising the day.
Besides not being homophobic for 24 hours, what can you do? IDAHO UK has a list of events (registration required), as does the international site. But one of the most intriguing and accessible ideas comes from Sydney.
The AIDS Council of New South Wales and the web-zine Same Same have joined with many other government, private and community organisations to launch a site calledThis is Oz. On it, you may upload a portrait of yourself in which you hold a printed or hand-written message which promotes acceptance and diversity. It also links to initiatives in other Australian states, such as Victoria and South Australia. I am sure that international messages of support would be welcomed.
I have a cerebral crush on retired High Court JusticeMichael Kirby. With his public statements, his legal judgements, and his work with United Nations bodies, he's become one of the world's great authorities on the intersection of law and ethics. In so doing, he acted as a natural supporter of gay rights, placing them in the context of broader human rights, and thus making a stronger case. He chaired the World Health Organisation task force on HIV and AIDS in the early nineties, and was instrumental in the WHO's decision to de-pathologise homosexuality--the event which IDAHO commemorates.
Everything he says or writes is a masterpeice of clarity and reason. Only after he makes the rational case, does he close with a compelling picture of the personal dignity a such fairness can enable.
I once heard him address a gay charity event in Melbourne in the mid-nineties, shortly before he came out. He spoke in his usual calm, measured tones about the AIDS crisis. Was it a gay disease, brought about by sexual practices many found distasteful, he asked? Or was it a tragedy which robbed the world of men with immense talent and energy? In his argument (for it was, in truth, an argument) he skillfully affirmed the worth and humanity of those whom so many despised.
He came out in quite a matter-matter-of-fact way, simply declaring newsagent Johann Van Vlouten as his partner of (then) 30 years in Who's Who 1999. "Johann is my official escort to all public events," Kirby once said, "He and the Queen got along famously."
May 17th is a Sunday. From how many pulpits will we hear a message against homophobia? Just asking.
Photo Credits: Portraits of Michael Kirby, Julie McCrossin and Matthew Mitcham come from thisisoz.com.au.
EDIT: I'll relax my anonymity policy just this once. Here's me. And by way of beautiful coincidence, the theme for Photo Friday this week happens to be Self Portrait, 2009.
Do gay men have anything resembling lesbian bed death? My gut instinct is hell no.
I may need to ask for a lifeline here. Lesbian readers: is lesbian bed death a myth? Many straight men will argue that they, too, catch a dose of lesbian bed death from time to time.
Shaw wrote that marriage will remain popular because it combines the maximum of temptation with the maximum of opportunity. Remember that Shaw went to his grave a virgin, and so had no fucking clue what he was talking about.
The answer is yes, all cohabiting couples eventually taper off, no matter how ruddy their libidos, or obliging their natures.
Master Right put a hand down his pants the other day, and confirmed what we both suspected. It had fallen off.
I leapt in to the helpful-spouse drill. "Well, where do you remember last having it out?"
“If I recall, it was at the candy counter in the Karstadt.” he replied. “Perhaps we should phone their lost-and-found?”
“Nah. It’s probably been sucked up some vacuum cleaner hose by now.” I observed, mildly aroused at the thought.
As for my own todge, I regularly remind the hub that like anything else in cold storage, if he doesn’t eat it soon, it’ll go off.
That said, no man is lonely if he has a free hand and a little imagination. Broadband helps, too.
How do I go about finding a new gay best friend (I've got the lesbian best friend covered)? I haven't had one since college, and I'm feeling the fag hag lack. Fair warning, though: I live in the benighted South, where football is king, everything is fried, and people wear trucker hats without irony.
Gosh, do they wear trucker hats without irony? You mean wrinkled, straight off the clothesline?
Enough joking. One of the terrible things about the Honourable Husband's inability to meet a deadline, is that the answer I would have given your question, when you asked it, may be interpreted completely differently under current conditions. Gypsy, if these comments grate a bit, given your state of mind and heart, forgive me.
I suspect you don’t really want a fag to hag.
Before I moved from New York to Munich, and changed its name to Deutschland über Elvis, I called my blog High Maintenance Hags.
It reflected the outlook of a middle aged gay male. As I got older, the genuine female friends had begun to sort themselves from the hags. And the hags had become insufferable.
Maybe it was a New York thing. Sex and the City made a certain kind of shallow, label-chasing, sexually-demanding loveless single woman flavour of the month. And one of her must-have accessories was a fag.
As I grew older and wiser, the role of handbag became less rewarding. Especially when handbag turned into suitcase turned into steamer trunk. Frankly, if I wanted a woman with whom I had no sex, but who demanded the intimacy and emotional support of a lover, I’d just turn straight and get married.
Shopping with them was torture. Shoes? What is it with women and shoes?
I wrote a post on this before, which speculated that a woman’s peak hag years are under 25. Perhaps a fag and his hag are lovers who are too immature for an adult sexual relationship?
Am I being unfair? Maybe. But experience shows boys make extremely bad girlfriends, in the long haul.
Most of the hagships in my life have matured into proper friendships between equals, which involve two complete, fulfulled lives that intersect. Gypsy, perhaps one of the reasons you don’t currently have a fag to hag, is simply because you’ve outgrown it. If you actually did hold a light-loafered lad on a leash, you’d soon grow tired of him. And he’d grow tired of the leash, fo’ shizzle.
My advice is to make ten new male friends. Statistically, at least one of them will be gay. And as a bonus, the other nine will be eligible. It works, even in the South.
We were dining in a sidewalk cafe in Barcelona when Master Right posed a question. "Would you like to be poisoned?"
Two young women had just given us vouchers for a free drink in the bar next door. "I know what you're thinking," I reassured him. "They're not like that."
Our hotel faced La Rambla de Catalunya, a lively street on the edge of the Gothic Quarter, and a magnet for tourists. On the footpath, several ladies plying an ancient trade thought us likely prospects. This left him uncomfortable. Unlike his husband, who once sat on the other side of the church, Master Right finds the very idea of girl-sex kinda icky.
"I'm Japanese, so those women are less dangerous for me," he observed. "They'll probably just steal my passport. But they know many Westerners have blood type O, which is compatible to everyone. You are very useful to them. You will wake up in a bathtub of ice without a kidney."
I smiled. "They won't find me saleable. I'm A negative."
This had become a little joke between us. Japanese pop culture goes crazy over blood types, and their effect on personality. Type O, relatively rare among Asians, apparently makes one excitable, and is thought to explain much gaijin behaviour. The business of O-jin being able to receive all other blood groups is poorly understood, and urban legend maintains that Westerners swap organs willy-nilly.
"More people end up in hospital than you think. My Japanese guidebook says to watch out in a bar, if someone accidentally cuts your finger." he continued, as though bloodletting were as common as a game of darts, among the wild Spaniards. "They take away your cocktail napkin and perform tests."
One of the things I love about my husband is his quaint Japanese outlook on so many aspects of life. But this began to sound like a mixture of xenophobia, sexism, and just plain being a pussy.
"Look, Barcelona attracts a lot of tourists, and people need to make a buck. So far, we've encountered a thoroughly gracious city. Even the prostitutes spoke politely."
"They gave me a bad feeling." He sulked for a moment over his grilled octopus.
"Here we are, two fiftyish men, womanless in a big city, and they jumped to the wrong conclusion," I continued. "If you get so uncomfortable when people assume we're straight, let's go someplace where that won't happen. How about that gay bar we spotted online?"
Master Right thought about it for a moment.
"What do Spanish people call a drugstore?" he asked.
"A farmacia. Why?"
"We need to get protection."
This took me aback. A married, fiftyish gay couple doesn't go to a bar looking for that kind of thing anymore. In fact, they don't go looking for that kind of thing anymore, period.
"I'm not going to a dance club without a face mask."
My patience wore thin. "Let me point out, MR, in spite of what your guidebook might say, Spain and Mexico are not the same country. Furthermore, as a precaution, I intend to drink a skinful of the planet's most widely-used disinfectant. Come on."
"Mmmm....I don't know." he whined. "You go out and enjoy. Maybe I'll just head back to our room." And lock the door. And bolt it. And lean the armoire against it, no doubt, lest any of those pesky women knock, offering a shop-at-home service.
Two Barceona cops on the beat in the Placa Reial. A picture of order and good government.
Master Right slunk off, avoiding eye contact with the ladies, as I looked for a cab. From among the traffic, an ancient Citröen in bumblebee livery approached. A green light glowed on top, beneath which a sign flashed Libre. As required by local law, he had also flipped a sign up on his dashboard, which showed the Catalan translation, Lliure.
I hopped in, and gave the address of the club. The driver replied in a torrent of Catalan. When that didn't work, he switched to Spanish. When that didn't work either, he spoke Spanish very slowly, very loudly, and peppered in a few English words . (Admit it. Have you not used the same approach in your native tongue, from time to time?)
It seemed my poor old bar simply would not do. Éstas lame, apparently. The driver took me on a little tour of the Eixample, Barcelona's gay neighbourhood, pointing out many bars I might enjoy when they finally open at two in the morning. "Éstas gay gay gay", he announced of each, "No señoritas."
One of his cab-driver buddies approached from the opposite direction. The two stopped in the middle of the street, door to door, put their arms out the window, and slapped up a high-five. (Such excitable gaijin!) The driver's pal knew where the action was, and we headed off to a club which, this particular evening, was totally smokin' caliente.
Well, smoky rather than smokin'. I ended up at Metro, a Barcelona institution. The conceit is that the bar is located in a cellar, a bit like the subway. Except you can't smoke in the subway.
Now, as I like to say, gay bars are McDonald's. Walk into one anywhere in the world, and frankly, you could be anywhere in the world. The music, lighting and buff barmen made sure Metro met gay corporate-ID best-practice, but it excelled in some distinctive ways.
Inside Metro. Estas gay, no?
First, there was a room devoted to local Catalan music. Not a note of We Are Family, Tainted Love or It's Raining Men to be heard.
Second, Metro hosted a throng female visitors; they hadn't read about the no senioritas rule.
And third, in the the men's room, atop every urinal, sat a video screen. It played material which, if you watched long enough, would make it very difficult to pee.
I was digging the vibe at the bar when a couple of young gentlemen struck up a conversation, in English. How splendid! Friendly locals, pleasant chat, bridges toward international understanding, that kind of thing, right?
The fellow with the best English didn't take long to ask a leading question. "Do you find my friend attractive?" he asked, and rubbed together his right index finger and thumb. "Comprende?"
They trafficked in organs, too, in their own way. I replied that I thorougly comprended, and gosh, look at the time, better be getting home. Where's the nearest taxi libre?
I'd been to Barcelona before, but never found the locals quite so, um, sexually enterprising. And it was a little confronting that so many of them assumed a middle aged gent, by default, would be well-heeled sexual desperado.
I opened the door to our hotel room to find Master Right in bed, half-asleep. "You'll never guess what happened," I began, eager to share my little adventure.
"Honourable Husband," he said, "You can tell me all about it in a minute. But wash your hands first. And gargle."
You probably won, but it was close. Maggie Gallagher still managed to land a few punches that, to mix sporting metaphors, should have gone straight through to the keeper. Here's a couple of tips.
When she interrupted you at the beginning, I wouldn't have tried to shout over her. She'll always win. Rather, you might have waited for her to run out of steam, whereupon you may have reminded her that Chris Matthews is an able moderator, and he will ensure she has an opportunity to rebut your points. And that in future, you will ask her to wait for the interviewer to invite her to respond, rather than interrupting. Moral advantage scored.
Those pesky Methodists on the beach? "Maggie, I believe that religious charities need to learn a lesson that gay charities learned long ago. When you act as a business--that is, charging people rather than asking for a donation--you need to conduct yourself like a business. When the HRC sells a bumper sticker to raise money, we can't refuse to sell one to Maggie Gallagher because we disagree with her morals. Of course, religious charities have been getting a free pass from the law for quite some time, and it needs to stop. That's independent of the issue of gay marriage."
Catholic doctors performing abortions? "Catholic doctors should get out of the abortion business. Find another specialty. More to the point, though, is that they should not perform a service for one which they deny another. Should a Catholic fertility specialist refuse to help a remarried divorcee, lest he abet adultery? Should a Jehovah's Witness doctor refuse to administer a blood transfusion to a patient he treats in the ER? Even worse, should he have the right to say that NO patient may receive blood from another, anywhere, because he finds it immoral? That's effectively what you're doing when you oppose gay marriage."
The Catholic adoption agency? "Faith has not protected the Catholic church from incompetence, and indeed malfeasance. Any agency which takes children, often from failed heterosexual relationships, and denies them a loving, stable home beccause that home happens to belong to two women, raises not a question of morals, but of professional competence. We should judge the agency on whether it has denied this child an opportunity for a loving family, when loving families are so few and far between. That's the injustice, not for the prospective parents, but for the child."
"By the way, Maggie, show me the unbiased stats that say kids raised in gay homes fail to thrive."
"Of course you have your religious freedom, Maggie, which allows you to make moral judgements, to which you are entitled. But everyone's morals differ, even within your coalition. That's why the law concerns itself less with morals, and more with ethics and justice and fairness. You may disagree with the morality of many people, but that's no reason they should not be treatedfairly."
Here's an easy point everyone has overlooked. "Maggie, tell me why you chose a young black woman to say the line 'and I am afraid', and not a white guy. It's scary for both of them, right?"
Now, Joe, you let her get away with the violins at the end. We have gotta tug at the heartstrings better, while still remaining cool. Obama is a master at this, and it left his critics with no means to fault his character or motives. "Maggie, I actually agree with much of what you say. That which truly puts us human beings at our best, in the eyes of God or by any other standard, is the love in our hearts. Right now, you're saying that the love in my heart is worth less than the love in yours. Shame on you."
Joe, by all means, keep up the good work. But if your arguments always descend into he's-lying-she's-lying, you'll fan the flames, rather than douse them.