By Tim Trengove-Jones
“Falling down, falling down, just like Spring rain.” So the 80s song went. The Spring rain hasn’t yet arrived in Johannesburg but its harbinger, the August wind, has. So, rather than Spring rain falling down, the last of the yellowed, desiccated Jacaranda leaves swirl down in irritating gusts, and those of us prone to allergies, have mucous falling down in a parody of Spring rain.
As I write the snow lies on the Drakensberg mountains: lovely to look at, less lovely to experience. The Springboks (Amabokke Bokke) won their first game in the Southern rugby competition against Argentina and the Cincinnati tennis finals are about to be played before the weary tennis pros make their way to the US Open.
Who could be bored?
As Spring rolls in, the various Pride Parades draw closer. More wearied than a tennis pro at the end of a tough season, I draws a heavy breath, and my psychological legs feel heavier at the mere mention of Pride Parade. And then I recall “the youth,” that to – to me – unknowable mass of “the young and lovely.” Pride “is for them,” I tell myself. For months, visions and revisions of “what to wear” have been going down. Money has been saved. Money has been extorted.
All to ensure that “the look” can be achieved.
Men, psychologists tell us, live in the eye. Young gay men certainly do. And, tragically, older gay men do even more so: it is the only “life” left them. If, in the “straight world,” 50 is the new 30, in the “gay world,” resolutely behind the times, 30 marks the advent of invisibility. Put it to the test: find a heterosexual male who speaks of himself as “old” at 23. Try not to find a self-identifying man who has sex with men who does not think of himself as ageing at the age of 23.
This privileging, this obsession with “youth and beauty” is a defining characteristic of the gay male sensibility. It is definitively recorded in Oscar Wilde’s Picture of Dorian Gray where the advent of Dorian’s sense of his own beauty is also the advent of his scarifying knowledge that his beauty will fade, and he will grow “old and ugly.” The knowledge that it is “beauty that must die” is what terrifies him, not the knowledge of his own mortality. The two things, mortality and the temporary tenure of beauty, are related not identical. And this fear of ageing has become more and more pronounced in both the hetero and homo worlds.
While “we all” resort to lotions and notions, rely on the knife, subject ourselves to pain and expense in the futile pursuit of a modern, techno-driven pursuit of “youth and beauty,” it is in the psyche of the man who has sex with men that the trauma of losing the “youthful hew” strikes most damagingly.
Unlike Spring, in the human being, “Spring” does not return: are seasons are not, ultimately, cyclical, but linear: our physical seasons, at any rate. Tutored into this “tragic” self-awareness, Wilde’s Dorian becomes a collector, you recall. He assembles, serially, perfumes, furniture, tapestries, jewels. Each and every one of his collected items is exquisite, rare and, above all, beautiful. No, don’t interject that what he finds beautiful you might not. Wilde is bright, very bright, and has insisted that “Beauty needs no justification, it is its own justification.” What is key, though, is the serial nature of Dorian’s collecting: nothing suffices. Nothing.
This appetitive drive is fundamental to his collecting: it tells us that he is engaged in some kind of displacement activity. Wilde, too, knows this, and recounts that “This was to be, for Dorian, an escape, for the moment, from the terrible dread that was always with him.” Beyond the psychological insight, part of the genius of Wilde’s insight is registered in the use of the definitive article, “the terrible dread…”. The assumption is that we know this dread, that this dread is obvious and does not require elucidation or definition: the terrible dread….
Yet the nature of this dread might not be immediately obvious to you or to me. And were we to compare notes, you might define the dread as something different to my account of it. What is certain is that each of us would quite readily provide an account of this dread and, for each of us, the account would be valid, because very real.
The effort, the long planning, the expense, which many of “us” pour into a “Pride Outfit” is pertinent here. Is it mere celebration? Is there such a thing as mere celebration? Is the expense (various) devoted to the assemblage of “a look” not symptomatic of a kind of “dread”? The fear that I will not stand out? The fear that I will stand out? The fear that I won’t get laid after an after party? The fear that I shan’t feature in the pictures that will be paraded on Mambaonline, for instance? Do I not wish to be recorded as gorgeous, to be noted as flamboyant, to be certified as desirable?
Wilde noted: “give a man a mask and he will show you the truth.” At the first ever Pride Parade in Joburg (When was THAT, who remembers that? – Answers on a PC, and the first correct answer received will win a ….) many participants had paper bags over their heads. These were obvious(ly) masks. But the flaunting of the body (we hope) beautiful, the varied outfits donned for the day by the participants at Pride are themselves masks. This is one of the (more subtle?) ironies of the events: “coming out” remains a form of masquerade.
Neil Bartlett, a great student of Wilde, has himself spoken of what he thinks “we” are fighting for: the capacity to be “free from shame.” If our physical life is one of linear declension, our psychological and emotional lives might, perhaps, involve elements of circularity: we commit the same faults, we repeat the same routines.
“Hope springs eternal.” As we move into Spring, and as we re-encounter Pride season, I do hope that the masks donned are donned with thoughtful self-consciousness. And that, so many years down from the first Pride Parade, and so many years on from the last of the great Constitutional victories for LGBTIQ citizens, we will be able to keep moving towards a life without shame. A life in which self-esteem, “grounded on just and right,” becomes a reality for more and more of us.
Since 1972, Pride’s joyful form of protest has become a liberating force.
London’s celebration of LGBT+ Pride in June is one of thousands of Pride celebrations taking place over the summer months in nearly every country on Earth.
In less than five decades, what began in a handful of western cities has become an unprecedented global phenomenon. Today, the LGBT+ movement is the most unifying, ubiquitous and universal movement there has ever been – and the most successful. It exists in more than 160 countries, sometimes covertly, with a common agenda of LGBT+ liberation that transcends all borders, classes, ideologies, cultures and ethnicities.
It has notched up some impressive achievements. The decriminalisation of homosexuality in more than 120 countries, with 26 now legalising same-sex marriage and more than 60 protecting LGBT+ people against discrimination. Some 86 states have national human rights institutions that defend sexual and gender minorities.
It is an extraordinary accomplishment that more than 2,000 years of homophobic, biphobic and transphobic persecution have been significantly rolled back in most countries in less than half a century. All this progress is the result of daring, inventive and unrelenting campaigning – against all odds – by national and international LGBT+ movements.
More evidence of success is the fact that our rainbow flag is now the most universal flag in the world. Flown in every country, often briefly or secretly in repressive states, no other flag has such international reach and appeal. Unlike national flags, it is cherished by LGBT+ people – and straight allies – in every nation. It is the symbol of our common LGBT+ humanity.
Pride is the celebration that unites hundreds of millions of diverse LGBT+ people across the planet. I have witnessed, in my lifetime, the expansion of Pride events to the farthest corners of the world. The annual celebrations are the visible manifestation of our queer culture and communities, and our collective international demand for respect, dignity and equal human rights.
The idea of Pride was conceived in the early 1970s as a riposte to the then dominant view – even among many LGBT+ people – that we should be ashamed of our sexual orientation and gender identity. Aged 20, together with other members of the Gay Liberation Front, I helped pioneer the UK’s first ever Pride parade, in London in July 1972.
To give it broad appeal, we deliberately pitched it as a carnival parade with a LGBT+ liberation theme. Even so, it was tiny. Most LGBT+ people were in the closet and had internalised homophobia. Only 700 people showed up. There were similar ground-breaking Pride events in major US cities at around the same time; but also with relatively small numbers. Since then, there has been an exponential growth of Pride celebrations all across the planet. Madrid, São Paulo, Toronto, Paris, New York and Berlin have each mobilised between 1 and 2 million people. No other political or social movement can match this scale, year on year.
At the other end of the Pride spectrum, in some countries those attending the festivities number only in the hundreds and suffer severe state repression, as happened in Uganda last year, when government threats of violent attack forced Pride’s cancellation. The previous year, 2016, Pride Uganda was marred by police arrests and brutality, without legal authority and with impunity.
By Quentin Tolmay
Our bodies are instruments that play different tunes to different people. We rarely explore and experiment with our bodies beyond our comfort zone, scared that we will either hate it or love it, or that our friends won’t approve. Truth is most of us have some sort of fetish, something that triggers our desires and gives us our ultimate sexual experience.
Fetishes can spice up your love life, adding a new excitement factor in your relationship. The most important part is sitting down with your partner(s) and discussing what you both find comfortable and taking it from there. There’s a massive online support system to help you with the “In’s and Out’s” as well as people who have classes teaching you in a safe and clean environment how to make your fantasy a reality. There are many varieties to choose from and it's only limited to what we care to experience. A fetish can take any form, and it isn't only limited to objects; you can fire your fixation in a certain body part to such a level that it is the spark in your sexual arousal.
Safety is a huge part in fetishes and they come from a lot longer back than we think. For instance, a fetish called “tentacle rape” was invented in the early 1600s by Toshio Maeda, who called this artistry ‘Urotsukidojiith’, with an array of artists and poets using it as illustrations and inspiration in their art works, resulting in quite a few accidents and even deaths when women tried to play it out. The most popular adaptation was the art of Katsushika Hokusai, a Japanese artist who created 32 paintings which is now internationally recognized in the festish world.
A more common fetish is “autoerotic asphyxiation” also know as breath play, which causes around 500 to a 1000 deaths per year, and is the strangling of a partner with either your hands or an object . The person who will take part in ‘breath play’ has a huge responsibility to their partner, always making sure to have proper signals to avoid any accidents. This fetish dates back to the 1600s when it was used to cure erectile dysfunction. We all get caught up in the moment, and sometimes our bodies can take over; it's important to remember to have set rules between you and your partner(s).
The most common fetish in modern day, which also dates back as one of the oldest fetishes, is feet. This fetish dates all the way back to the early 1300s when it first surfaced in all its sweat-pruned glory. This can go from only kissing the feet to, well, you can figure out the rest. The fetish for feet isn't as glamorous as you may think. In the late 1300s almost everything gave you some sort of disease, and apparently, feet was a somewhat compromised solution.
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