Friday, 23 August 2019

I Used to be Jealous of Xavier Dolan

Wouldn’t you be? I’m an old gay writer. Nobody cares much about me anymore. But just as my ‘decline’ began, a young whippersnapper appeared. He quickly became the new god of the gay art scene. And he’s cute as a button to boot.
In case you’re wondering; yes I have seen some of Xavier’s flicks — and, I kinda like them. 
Which is another problem. This made me really jealous; the guy is not only cute, and a great actor, but he can direct!
Well now I can relax because there’s nothing to be jealous of.
Xavier Dolan has been knocked off his pedestal — a victim of political correctness, intersectionality, and the ’woke folk.’
What I interpreted all these years as a rejection of my writing had nothing to do with me. It’s just that what used to be the called ‘the love that dare not speak its name’ — and became (briefly, in my heyday) ‘the love that won’t shut up’ — is now, well, pretty much over.
I haven’t seen Dolan’s new film The Death and Life of John Donovan. But my critique of the reviews of this film has nothing to do with whether the critics are right or wrong, and everything to do with the cultural prejudices that dominate their writing. Angelo Murreda in The National Post refers to the film as “a comparably minor story…about a relationship between a gay actor unable to live frankly in public and an awkward pre-teen in search of a friend.” The Globe and Mail’s Kate Taylor is even more explicit in her dismissal of the film’s subject matter: “I am prepared to believe that a rising actor in the early 2000s in New York would be as firmly closeted as Rock Hudson in the 1950s, but I’m not prepared to believe it’s still society’s fault.” Wow.
When Kate Taylor was a theatre critic she never seemed very fond of my work. But I never dared imagine she was homophobic. It’s now clear to me that she always thought gay men were repulsive, annoying whiners. It’s just that now she can be completely comfortable about expressing her homophobic views in a culture climate that believes homophobia is over, that feminine boys are probably asexual and trans anyway — and that all us privileged fags should just shut up.
This cultural shift will not pan out well for anybody, gay or straight. There are (have you noticed?) lots of tortured young men out there, many conflicted about their sexuality and its relationship to masculinity, some of them with guns — some of them who are ‘incels’ — and some who are shooting up gay bars.
Pretending that homophobia does not exist will not make them all go away.
But hey— let’s look at the bright side.
I’m no longer jealous of Xavier Dolan.

Thursday, 8 August 2019

Advice to A Young Artist, 2019

“It is as dangerous for society to attract and indulge authors as it is for grain dealers to raise rats in their granaries.”  - Anton Chekhov
Right now it is very difficult to be an artist. I feel for you.
When I started writing in 1966 it was very different. It was the era of abstract expressionism and conceptual art — fiction was the domain of the new French anti-novel, the ‘new criticism’ dominated poetry,’ and Bergman ruled film. Susan Sontag just published her ground breaking essay Against Interpretation (READ IT NOW!). Artists were suspicious of work with a clearly articulated message — or even of art with a meaning. Instead, artists were rebels, aesthetes and dreamers. They created — for passionate reasons they themselves could not fathom —  works that some did not understand. But nevertheless somehow the greatest of these works communicated — not about the latest ‘issues’ in the news — to people who were moved, upset, angered, and inspired by art’s form, style, grace, wit, craft, and, yes, well, beauty.
Today, art is a very different matter. We are told that every artist must have a clearly articulated message, and that message must be the correct one. What is correct — and what is not — are both relentlessly argued on social media. Christian publishers will give you money to write a ‘Christian’ book. Social justice publishers will give you money to write a book that articulates the principles of social justice. Everyone will want to know what you have to say, and there are lots of rewards for saying whatever is considered by the ‘powers that be’ to be ‘the right thing.’
You must not expect to get support from libraries, universities, arts councils, publishers — in fact institutions of any kind. You must stand alone, outside. Digital media is now the conscience of the world, decreeing that there are two points of view — right and left. They world knows (and rightly so) that these ruling dichotomies are deeply threatened by artistic work.
Knowing all this, will you still want to create? 
I suspect so. 
Because you must, because you can do nothing else, because your art is your life.
So do it.
(How? On the sly, in secret, 'privately circulated to friends’ — however you can.)
You may be called ‘amateur’ because at one time professional standards were wholly aesthetic; now they are merely ideological.
But remember, ‘amateur’ means ‘lover.’
So always remember, you are not a preacher.
You are a lover.

Friday, 26 July 2019

Sorry Bracken, But You’re Not A Drag Queen!

Bracken Hanke is a lovely little girl who likes to dress up in high femme fashion with lots of make up. She looks absolutely fabulous in her costume and should be encouraged to dress up (as should all the young!) in any way she wishes. 
However, Bracken is not a drag queen.
I blame Bracken’s parents for putting her on display in the new CBC documentary Drag Kids and encouraging her to assume an identity to support a cause. What’s the cause? Facilitating a ‘no gender’ universe. What’s my problem with all this? There is such a thing as gender, and drag is very much a part of gender and sexual politics — past, present, and future.  And you can’t — and mustn’t — erase history.
What is a drag queen? A drag queen is a gay man who is noticeably effeminate in his daily life. Gay men who do drag  are often ridiculed and bullied for their femininity and even shamed on online gay ‘hook up’ apps (‘no fats, no femmes, please’). They dress up (usually) as a glamorous, feminine women in social situations or for performance. A drag queen does not desire a sex change, or desire to be a woman, or even desire to spend a significant amount of time dressed as a girl. Drag is a way for gay men to deal with the psychological effects of the homophobia that is directed against them by straight people who consider us second class citizens, because it is assumed that because we are effeminate we play the much despised ‘passive’ part in sexual relations.
Also drag is a lot of fun, and a way for gay men to celebrate their feminine side.
So why should I care if some little girl’s parents are calling her her a drag queen?
Well this little girl can — of course — call herself anything she wants. And yes it’s great that women can enjoy the experience of dressing up in drag, that is, the thrill of ‘acting’ femininity rather than simply assuming that they must be feminine because they are women (this is what Judith Butler talks about). But for a female of any age to call herself a drag queen is deeply insulting to gay men. 
A drag queen is not just a guy in a dress; he is part of a passionate and brave tradition of fighting the patriarchy. Drag queens populated Molly Houses in 18th century England — where gay men gathered for same sex parties, and dressed up for mock wedding and birthing ceremonies. In 1969 drag queens were on the  front lines of the Stonewall riots. They finally stood up to the police and changed the world, inventing gay liberation. Drag means this: you are looking at a man — not a woman — in a dress, and men have every right to wear dresses, to be sex objects, to be passive partners in sex, and to explore their femininity. 
Should a white woman like Rachel Dolezal call herself black? No. Should a perfectly abled person use a disabled parking spot? No. Should someone put on some medals and call themselves a war hero? No. We drag queens have fought with our blood, our tears — and yes sometimes our lives — for the right to be proud  pansies, girly boys, and men who have sex with men.

And no one has the right to take that away from us.

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Diet Diary

(I have to lose weight for an upcoming — minor — operation, and this is the diary of how it makes me feel)

Day 21
So there has been a lot of kissing of beautiful men. It does strike me though that in talking about this I am trying to capture something that cannot be captured, which is precisely: the thrill of it all, back then. I will never forget the first discovery of beauty; being 27 years old, and never having kissed a man, and suddenly figuring out what all the love songs were about, which means the hurt really, and wanting something so much you could almost taste it, and then it’s not there, suddenly, and what are you going to do? And when I first began writing poetry, real poetry it was about this; there were endless poems to Glenn Glenn Glenn (where are those poems now?;( I know he is a homeopathy receptionist in Vancouver) which was about the discovery of the sweetness of his body. But for me it was the sweetness of the body of any man, because it was the first time. I was 27 and he was 19. But he was far more experienced than I. For me it was also the first thrill of having someone I desired, desire me. And now I can see what I am trying to recapture here and I just can’t — that goes without saying. So I wish I could say there will be a polite closing of the door to all that, and a sigh, and a sly, wistful smile, and a ‘not at my age’ — but sorry folks, that’s just not going to happen. Because I can’t imagine anything more perfect than dying with a kiss from someone beautiful on my lips, because even if it’s not a discovery of anything at all, a kiss from someone beautiful is always fresh with simply, well, with simply that.

Sunday, 7 July 2019

Diet Diary

(I have to lose weight for an upcoming — minor — operation, and this is the diary of how it makes me feel)

Day 18
I’ve lost 20 pounds and I am starting to enjoy looking in the mirror again. I was standing outside a restaurant on Church street and a man came up to me and started flirting. I know he was flirting even though I’m very unadept at this. Interesting that he is someone I have had my eye on for years, I’ve seen him making moves in bars and thought hmmm…he’s so sexy and so what’s the word …assertive? Unlike me. He said “I went down to the beach today, took off my clothes you know…but it was so windy.” NOT too much information at all. He touched me twice in one conversation and I have never met him before. (Flirting 101 — touch them lightly, casually, but not offensively.) So what does it mean to be desired, and why does it matter? Well first of all I’ve been living this tragical life because I’ve always been a big burly threatening-looking man so ergo, albeit, therefore, duh everyone expects me to come onto them and I’m just not constitutionally capable of doing that. You have to come onto me. So I’ve missed out on so much because the outside of my body has been sending a message my inside can’t deliver. I get women for this reason. (Their bodies send the message that they are weak and yielding personalities when so many are not. Get it?)  Anyway, all my personal pain aside, men are not desired, are never — not the way women are, our bodies are not culturally fetishised and it is all that I have been desperate for all my life really is to be desired, and all it takes is twenty pounds. I know you don’t like it — when I say ‘you don’t like it’  you don’t like that, right? Speaking for you when you’re not there, that’s what you don’t like, right — but you are there, aren’t you? You are reading this? — no, now this blog is getting too meta. What I am saying tho is you don’t like it when I talk about men being desired -- it’s a huge cultural taboo. But just go to Shakespeare, go to Two Noble Kinsmen. Shakespeare is unabashedly unaware of this taboo it seems, for the knights are young and beautiful and help each other put on their armour before they fight each other ‘oh did I pinch you?’ — the one kinsman says to the other. The other might reply: ‘You mentioned caring about the injury to my supple, young, tender, hard, sun-grazed, lightly furred, dapple flesh, no, I don’t mind. I know that we are set to do battle against each other, and perhaps kill each other, but you hope my armour doesn’t pinch.’
 Wow. Is that love? Desire? Obsession? Or just plain nuts? So this guy who is flirting with me (his name is Gilbert, by the way, that’s his first name, like my last, so we are in effect Two Noble Kinsmen — or perhaps ignoble ones) I don’t know if he’s beautiful on the inside as well as the outside as Shakespeare would have it, probably not, after all, we talked about the weather. Well I shouldn’t hold it against him - or rather I would love to hold anything against him I could. We must all talk must about the weather sometimes, mustn’t we? (Chateaubriand did, it’s what Barthes liked about him.) But what matters is that this man who desires me is violating an ancient taboo by worshipping my body not because I am a warrior but only because I look like one (I am doing a passing imitation of a warrior now that I am leaner) and of course our sex, if we ever have it, will not be generative — a cardinal sin — it will only be for pleasure, it will be for the orgasm alone, so put that, as they say, in your pipe and smoke it.

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Diet Diary

(I have to lose weight for an upcoming — minor — operation, and this is the diary of how it makes me feel) 

Sublime encounter. It’s spring, I unbutton my jacket, displaying my body. A man, very handsome, slender, immediately responsive, kisses me, No one ever believes of course that such an encounter with a stranger can be loving — but it was. It’s a revelation; now everything is related to my diet, my body. I’ve been talking with my friends much to much about what I eat, which really means what I don’t eat. I have to apologise to my friends constantly for always returning to the subject of food. It’s an obsession. But now — this. This — reward. No, not a burger and fries. The beauty of a man. The confidence of going into a certain situation where men are being gay together and instantly matching up with someone who is instantly attracted to me, and not coincidentally, he is  someone I am attracted to also. Almost annoyed to find out that it has always been this easy. There is another world. And is that a bad thing? Well of course it is; one can only access these men with their perfect bodies by eating healthy food and losing weight. Another revelation; my newly discovered resentment of fat people. I did not think that would happen. I have lost just 13 pounds but it is two belt notches and a significant amount of belly fat (or it certainly seems significant to me). And now I look at fat people with disgust. And suddenly everyone is fat. Or that just what comes of being eternally hungry?

Monday, 1 July 2019

Diet Diary

(I have to lose weight for an upcoming — minor — operation, and this is the diary of how it makes me feel)

Day 12
It’s been three days and my weight loss has slowed down (apparently it was water weight…huh?)  but I went to see Mathew Bourne’s Swan Lake and now I have to do ekphrasis. This is when a writer describes a painting. Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake was like a painting. I went there fully expecting to go ‘oh la-te-da a bunch of gay men dancing around and being really erotic with each other in tights how lovely, snore!’ And it was a little bit like that until I figured out that the plot was very Oedipal (or should I say anti-Oedipal) in a gay way. The young prince, who resembled me in every way except looks, is locked in a love/hate relationship with his beautiful, imperious and scornful mother. He goes to the park and falls in love with a swan (a very sexy male dancer) and then the party! Oh the party! Everyone is dancing sexy and then the prince has to compete with his mother for the beautiful swan man —who is wearing leather pants. The leather pants was the best part. I’ve never seen leather pants in a ballet before. Anyway I won’t tell you the end but yes I will — the young prince kinda ‘gets’ the gorgeous swan guy when they are both dead, which kinda sucks (but hey, it’s a ballet). I got lost in it. The leather pants dance scene was so sexy and imagine competing with your mother for a guy (something I kind of feel like I’ve been doing for my whole life) and all the guys were strutting and slapping their thighs and punching each other and pulling themselves towards each other — and then anyway — it was just all about the way sex is. For awhile I was that ballet. I was crying. It was more real than my real life.

Is that a problem?