Thursday, June 4

AK Soufflé: Tribalism

- March 20, 2017


If art school taught me anything it is that I am not tribal. Reaching maturity, or at least what I then assumed to be maturity, in the mid 70s I was initiated into a gay scene that was fiercely tribal. Back then there seemed to be a few options. First there were clones. This was a look dominated by Levis, Lacoste polo shirts or plaid lumberjack shirts and Timberland boots. All topped off with a rather sharp haircut and a brush head moustache. Well at 20 I was six years away from growing any kind of a moustache, and the rest was beyond me. I did once try to achieve the look to go to the Wimbledon Area Gay Society disco or WAGS as we knew it. I failed. Apparently plaid in pink and lilac was not quite right and Katharine Hamnett white jeans equally a fail. I didn’t even go as far as Timberland, well who would want a pair of boots the colour of a soiled baby’s nappy? I ask you.

I couldn’t do leather either, or for that matter any of the other forms of gay “drag” that came along. I was, and probably still am an art school dresser, casual flamboyance that occasionally strays into being over the top. Well I like over the top.

Who would want a pair of boots the colour of a soiled baby’s nappy?

But my point is far more about tribes than fashion, and these days the gay scene is as tribal as ever. We have bears, otters, twinks, leather queens still… the list goes on and on. So much so that I wonder what kind of equality we were all fighting for. Apparently I am either a silver fox or a polar bear – and woe betide anyone who decides to call me daddy. Daddy was a name I gave up the right to claim when I realised and came to terms with being gay, was unlikely to marry a women and that I certainly had no desire to have children of my own. Don’t get me wrong, I like kids, but the great thing about other people’s kids, is you can send them back when you get bored.

I was out for a drink in a gay bar recently and happened to overhear the conversation at the next table. A rare thing in a gay bar as most play music so loud that the only means of communication is sign language or lip reading, that makes me sound so old. Anyway the conversation was between a group of young gay men who were being offensively rude about a group of older gay men. I didn’t say anything at the time, I know I should, but if any of you happen to be reading boys then hear this. Without the efforts of an older of gay men and women, you “twinks” would not be enjoying the freedom that you now can as openly homosexual beings – so learn some respect! As for tribes? Well give it up, let’s try to be a little more united – not just LGBT+ people, but everyone.

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