The first fifteen years of gay liberation following the 67 act in Britain was a time of slow growth in confidence for the queer community – but from the opening of the nightclub Heaven in 1979, we had arrived. The next 15 years brought suffering, death, section 28 (a british version of the current russian anti-gay propaganda law that Margaret Thatcher’s government brought in) – and still we partied, fucked and fell in love. INTENSE. The collective sigh of relief when the epidemic slowed down in the late 90s was huge, and has since turned into a shared culture that seems to be built around the urge to be successful, to look good, to party and play hard – to ignore death, disease and suffering and live life to the max. For those on the scene, gay life is much more high octane now than it ever was before aids appeared, with a wide range of drugs easily available, internet and phone apps making sex so accessible (or at least, the chasing of it so easy). Nightclubs are open all night, we can dance all weekend, and party more at home afterwards – drug use is almost ubiquitous, not the minority activity on the sidelines it was when I first came on the scene, and not restricted to any single age group. Drug use is mainstream – we simply do not buy into moralistic arguments against drugs, happily ignoring the law and even flaunting our habits on certain public websites. We are playing out one of our archetypal roles as scouts of consciousness, developing a very modern ecstatic culture that celebrates life and chases bliss, taking the risks such an endeavour brings and accruing casualties along the way. Despite the hot pictures in the glossy gay magazines, showing the bright side of our ecstatic subculture, it’s not all pretty out there. Guys drop dead in our saunas and clubs, addiction overtakes many, HIV infections are at an all time high – life for gay men can easily get out of control, as we attempt to balance work, family, sex life, relationships, friends, drug use….. For some there can be intense pressures but no easy release. And the gentle, nature loving, sensitive magical boy we once were, the boy who dreamt of and craved innocent loving connections with his male companions can get lost and forgotten.
For me there is no real conflict between the two sides of gay nature…. the reflective, caring, mystical side and the hot party animal part of us. I have lived both. The party animal in us loves life, is so thrilled to be alive it just wants to feel as good as possible as much as possible, but he can get out of control too easily and lead us into all sorts of trouble. The compassionate healer and lover in us cares for friends and builds bonds of trust, he reflects on life, may choose to work in a caring profession and is likely to be drawn to spirituality. Having journeyed deeply with that part of myself I see that we can reach bliss via either route, or a combination. And bliss is what we are ultimately chasing all our lives, disguised as boyfriends, drugs, designer clothes, fit body etc, or as deep inner peace and connection. For BLISS is the ultimate and true nature of the soul in its radiant divinity. The soul within calls us to know ourselves as limitless and free. The Hindus call this bliss ANANDA, and tell us that EXISTENCE (SAT) is CONSCIOUS (CHIT) AND BLISSFUL (ANANDA). Jesus said the same thing: GOD IS LOVE. We are passionate people and the last few decades have given us opportunity to express our love as well as our sexuality, more freely than ever before.
Since the 1970s we have marched to express our PRIDE in being who are, a word well chosen to counterbalance the inheritance of fear and shame we carry. Pride marches have become splendid celebrations over the years but are often accused of lacking the original spirit of protest. In the second decade of the 21st century we are becoming even more visible – gay people are in the global headline news often due to gaining rights or losing them – the times have changed and we are protesting again. This time in our demonstrations we reveal our LOVE, PASSION and COMPASSION as we express how we feel about the detestable situations facing lgbt+ people in Russia, Africa, India and elsewhere. People in those countries may seem slow to act for themselves, but we should remember the extreme fear they are living with. Our own Pride marches in the UK were very small affairs at first, it took some years for our confidence to grow, but now we are many and we have influence – this has come about because our political liberation gave us the chance to find out more about ourselves, to shake off fear and discover our talents and gifts. We found out there is so much more to us than our sexual habits. Freedom is more than sexual. We are good people. We love. We bring joy. We care. And we want out brothers and sisters across the world to have the chance to discover who they are too.