Sunday, 7 October 2012


A few years ago I watched BBC or CNN footage of Stephen Fry trying to persuade Chinese authorities to pardon a bipolar UK citizen from his death penalty sentence. He reluctantly put his arms behind his back and clasped his hands together, recognising that the man he was speaking to was aware the he identified as gay, and was under the mistaken impression that Stephen might come on to him. This gesture felt familiar to me - I too am a forceful personality and people mistrust their own instincts when aware of my bisexuality. I felt sad that people couldn't accept us non-heterosexuals as a natural part of the attraction economy and compelled us to 'disarm' ourselves so that we don't seem so very threatening.

Last weekend, at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas, I made straight for the bookshop in between speeches, and this was how I came face to face with the image of Benjamin Law, one of Australia's most prominent new writers, on the cover of his latest book, Gaysia.

The popularity of this pose amongst prominent gay men seems to speak to the expectations mainstream society places upon them. They are allowed to be entertaining, quirky, witty and charming, just so long as they keep out of sight the kind of sensuality that informs many everyday relations, even though most people wouldn't own to their day-to-day communications having an sexual undertone.

Let me put it this way: You know how there are some shops you return to often? How some of the people working there are more pleasant to deal with than others? Think of your favourite shop assistant, and I guarantee that if you look hard enough (and are honest with yourself), you'll notice that both of you send each other subtle sexual signals. They may not lead to anything (usually this sort of subliminal flirting is just a light social lubricant, signifying nothing in particular), but they're there. You smile at each other, you exchange mutual messages about each others' worth, you subtly affirm their sexuality, and they yours. Most people aren't aware of this on a conscious level, but it registers in the subconscious, and that is why the homophobia of the mainstream bullies people like Stephen Fry and Benjamin Law into voluntarily 'disarming' the subtle sexual messages they send - messages that homophobes are simultaneously drawn to and repelled by, because they can't admit to their own attractions.

It took me about 25 seconds to find another image of Stephen Fry with his hands behind his back.

I say, we need to 'turn this around'. Let non-heterosexual people reclaim their freedom of movement. Most people are sensually aroused by most people on some subtle, barely conscious level. Let it be. Get over it. 

1 comment:

  1. So true. So fucking true. Thanks for this piece.