J is for Janice

J is for Janice From the day she was born, Janice was given everything she wanted. She didn’t need to cry for too long before either her doting father or loving mother would be at her side, fussing over her with reassuring words of comfort and kisses on her forehead. From this moment on Janice knew that she was a very special person and because of that she could have Read more

I is for Impossible

I is for impossible. Having blown out her one hundred candles, with a slight relieve that her dentures didn’t come flying out covering the butter icing, Alice was quite exhausted and glad to be back in the solitary of her room, where she lit up a stogie and sat back in her chair. As much as everyone had made a great fuss over her centenary birthday, with just as many making Read more

H is for Hipster

H is for Hipster. The reason the new eatery stood out so much to Donald, was its choice of setting up shop in a part of town where the most exotic experience to be had was a mangey charity shop for a local cat charity. But that’s how these Hipster cafe’s start isn’t it, they move into a place with low rent and once they are established others move in. Read more

G is for Glenn

G is for Glenn. I’ve always loved horror stories. Skeletons have been at the forefront. I had a full size paper, glow in the dark skeleton and then a bit later the poster on the opposite side of my bed was of a skeleton on a motorbike, which I thought was great! I think i got it after seeing th esketon riding a motoabike in the Hammer Horror, Doctor, Terrors, Read more

F is for Fur

F is for Fur. Roger lay in bed, every time he opened his eyes the room span madly making him shut his eyes tight again. Downstairs he could hear the others getting on and knew that he too had to get up. Ever so gradually, Roger held both hands tight round his face as he lifted his head off the pillow. With his eyes still tightly shut he made the familiar Read more

LGBTQ

Saluting the Sissy: Part Two

Saluting the Sissy part 2.

In his book, The Celluloid Closet, Vito Russo highlights how the character of the sissy has been an obsession of the American movies. From the days of silent films the effeminate actions of the sissy had their origins in the vaudeville, where men dressing up in drag was all part of the collective mixture of stage acts. The drag element would quickly full out of fashion in early silent films; the main contribution for this was America movies obsession of the all American, masculine hero and the inevitable need of a foil, the sissy. The role of the Sissy was the emphasise the manliness of the hero while underlining the message, to be female is to be weak, to act effeminate means you are not a real man.
Real men in movies are admired by other men and desired by women and to save the day. The sissy is not allowed any of these tropes. The role of the sissy in movies is to be camp, insignificant, a bit of a joke.
Over time, this idea of what it means to be masculine trickled down into the underground gay scene. A very good example was shown in Quieten Crisp’s autobiography, The Naked Civil Servant. From his teenage years onwards Quieten Crisp made the decision not to hide his homosexuality. This he achieved through wearing make up, hennaing his hair and painting his nails red. Upon entering a 1950’s underground gay bar, Quentin sees everyone is dressed in tuxedos, men dancing with men. As he is to obviously gay, the host tears up Quentin’s membership card, with the clear message, if the place was raided, all the men can act masculine, act straight.
Over the next two decades the sissy would continue to be a fixture in films as the character that women saw as harmless fun and men saw as pests, but importantly echoed their own masculinity through the Sissy’s effeminate ways.
1969 America, the underground bars were filled with sissies, sashaying around, mixing with other groups including, lesbian’s, trans women and male prostitutes knowing that a police raid would be imminent. It is of great importance that we all remember that after another police raid at the Stonewall bar, this group of people had enough and fought back, including the sissy.
It would be great to say that after these raids, after the protest marches for equality that the gay community came together, excepting each other. Instead there was a backlash against the sissy. For many gay men, to be equal meant buying into the idea of what it means to be a man, a fantasy that could be seen on the movie screens. After all, we all know that to be queer in the movies means you will never make it to the final reel.
And so we had the rise of the ultra masculine man, taking notes from the Marlboro Man, to any one of Tom of Finland’s incarnations.
Some sissies scoffed at these images and carried on regardless, while other’s embraced the butch drag. From the 70’s onwards the idea of what it means to be a man has rumbled on, with the sissy being seen as the far end of the benchmark.
Whereas glam rock was seen as a bit un-masculine, it would be the 1980’s UK music scene that really shook things up with the idea of what it meant to be a man.
The tabloids went mad for the music fashion scene that would be coined as, New Romantics. Gender was fluid, what it meant to be masculine was played with, through the style of dress and the new trend to wear make up, even the boys from Village People gave the look a go….
It is without a doubt that the resilience of the sissy to stand up against adversity each and every tim, decade after decade that we witness the evolution of what it means to be a man. Most recently we have seen the New Man, now known as The Hipster, taking care of his appearance, being aware of what it means to treat not only the opposite sex, but all sexes with respect.
Of course there will always be those who think that to be a man they have to act rough and tough, not to show emotions and to dress in a certain way, but equally there are those who are comfortable living their lives at the other end of the spectrum. What we need to understand is that this does not make the sissy any less of a man, being a sissy is no longer an indication of a man’s sexuality, it never was; such ideas were created in the movies. Being a man comes in many different guises, the way we behave should never be taken as an indication of our strength as a loving human being.

Villiage People:5 o’clock in the morning,

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Gay Icons: Saluting the Sissy

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First published in www.gscene.com 01/01/2017:

Happy New Year! If I close my eyes I can take myself right back to living at home with my Nana and Sister, laughing at the campness of the likes of Larry Grayson (Shut that Door) and John Inman (I’m Free!) which we all really loved. As I got a bit older, these two characters where lambasted by right-on gay men, with cries that they did not represent the gay community. My guess was that it was never their intention, they were just being themselves, doing their job. There was further outcry that their characters were deemed safe’ to be on the telly as they were both sexless. I think if anyone bothered to re-watch a few episodes of Larry Grayson’s stand up performances they’d see plenty of sexual innuendo going on with his references to his postman, Pop it In Pete, or his more romantic suggestions with his song, My Friend Everard (get-it?) Is More Then A Friend To Me.th-1
Of course the writers of Our You Being Served and John Inmman both said the character, Mr Humpries wasn’t gay, the gag was the same with Mrs Slocombe was genuinely about her cat each time she mentioned her pussy, to do otherwise was to ruin the magicial nod, nod, wink wink on which the series was famed for. For me, I recognised the gay ellement in John Inman’s character and connected with that. I clearly remember sitting up straight when watching an episode of Are You Being Served, whth-3en John Inman suddenly popped out of a Wendy House, alongside a gorgeous bloke dressed up as a sailor, sporting a black beard…maybe that’s when my fixation with bearded men first began. To me, both these men are gay icons, along with the brilliant Hugh Paddick and Kenneth Williams aka Julian and Sandy (Ohh, how Bona!)

Sure, it would have been great to have a more diverse set of gay characters on the TV/radio but back then, and for a good while after, camp men where the only visible gays out there; the alternative would be guilt ridden stereotypes, I know which ones I prefer.
Another favourite gay icon of mine is Quentin Crisp. When I was eighteen, I saw Crisp’s autobiography TV drama, The Naked Civil Servant in which Crisp describes how he wanted to make his homosexuality, ‘abundantly clear’, by hennaing his hairand painting his nails red, even though such acts made him the target of homophobia. Crisp’s bravery made me all the more determined to be a happy, out, gay man.

Around this time, early 1980’s, there came a new influx of ballsie gay/bi men via the music scene, including: Marc Almond, Boy George, Marilyn, Pete Burns; these guys where ‘out there’ with their looks, but I was really drawn to the likes of Holly Johnson and Paul Rutherford (Frankie Goes to Hollywood) and theth-5 trio from Bronski Beat, Jimmy Someville, Larry Stienbachek and Steve Bronski. Frankie for their sexually explicit lyrics and video for Relax and Bronski Beat for their many unashamedly political gay songs, from Small Town Boy, Why and It Ain’t Necessarily So.th-6 th-7

These musicians may name check, David Bowie as a major influence, but it is the likes of Grayson, Inmanand Crisp who way before them were shaking up the norm, paving the way for other peacocks to shine. However, there’s a section of society both LGBT and straight who find camp men offensive. I recently saw the Play, Boys in The Band  (see clips from the movie) that shows that although we can all be a bit camp, it is very easy to turn on the sissy. I personally salute the sissy, the camp man, the queer. What isn’t right is that there is still very little acknowledgement for these camp men’s (as Ru Paul would say) “Charisma, uniqueness, th-8nerve and talent”. They may not have seen themselves as queer pioneers but without them this world would most certainly be a much less interesting place.

for more camp:The Queens of Camp Comedy

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The Power of a Kiss

thSince time began the emotive power of a kiss has been well documented, from Judas’s betrayal kiss to Jesus, to the emotional pull of Rodin’s world famous sculpture, The Kiss. This simple show of affection continues to be extremely powerful when shared with the wider public, particularly if the kiss is between a couple of the same sex and even more so if the same sex are male. One just has to take a look at the furore caused by the chaste kiss between the two Eastender characters, Colin (Michael Cashman) and Barry (Gary Hailes). This gay kiss was a first for any UK soap opera and caused equal amounts of praise and homophobic abuse from fans of the show. The red top tabloids went into meltdown with headlines like Eastbenders. Since then all the major soaps have included gay characters, reflecting the majority of the public opinion that being gay and showing affection through a kiss is not something to be ashamed of. However, there is still a section of the community who are literally repulsed by the sight of two men kissing; rather predictably two lesbians kissing receives a more titillating response from the tabloids and the majority of those (mostly male) homophobic complainers. Most recently Eastenders introduced a new gay character’s, Danny Pennant and Johnny Carter (played by Gary Lucy and Sam Strike) and once again complaints from viewers came in, however, the amount of complaints was dramatically smaller to those received back in the 1980’s. What is interesting to note is there has apparently been no complaints from viewers of Hollyoaks when they aired there own gay storylines. This has been put down to Hollyoaks having a younger, and perhaps a more enlightened audience fan base. Away from the soaps, John Barrowman’s man on man kiss at the opening of the Commonwealth Games got many of the social media sites buzzing with many people congratulating organisers for including the kiss, which helped highlight the fact that gay marriage is illegal in 42 of the 53 commonwealth counties taking part in the games. Even The Mirror congratulated the games with their online page showing “14 more amazing gay and lesbian snogs” Of course there was the usual backlash from others who were so disgusted that they had turn the television off and go and sit in their shed and fume. Living in Brighton it is easy to forget that there is still so much prevalent homophobia across the UK, and worse anti-gay legisation in the other countries across the world. For this reason alone it is all the more important that high profile, out gay men like Barrowman, show the world the power of the kiss, giving hope to all those who fear to share this simple act of love. John Barrowman’s Commonwealth Kiss

 

 

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Positive Nation, World AIDS Day (2013) Piece.

Please click the link below for my piece for Positive Nation, World AIDS Day, 2013.

 

http://issuu.com/talentmedia/docs/winter2013/13?e=1363912/6713304

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What Do the BrightonWriter and Miley Cyrus Have in Common?

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Read this months Gscene column from the

BrightonWriter to find out…

http://issuu.com/gscene/docs/gscene_jan14 (page 49)

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Brighton: The Graphic Novel, Part Two

 

Th eBrighton Writer's story board

Th eBrighton Writer’s story boardQueenSpark Books: Graphic Novel. (A shameless post Christmas plug).

Brighton: a Graphic Novel is turning out to be one of QueenSpark Books best sellers of 2013 and looks to continue to do so as we enter 2014.PTDC0002

With this in mind, The Brighton Writer invites you to take another peep behind his involvement in the process along with the extremely talented artists, Emilie Majarian  and Collette Tarbuck.

Having interviewed the main drag artists David Raven, aka Maisie Trollette Dave Lynn and Stephen Richards aka Lola Lasagne (see previous blog)  The Brighton Writer set about interviewing other key players who would become part of the projects storyline.

As HIV and AIDS has had such a devastating effect on many of those within the LGBT community, The Brighton writer felt it important to include this era within the storyline. With this in mind, The Brighton writer got in touch with local artist/sculpture, Romany Mark Bruce, James Ledward (Gscene) and Paul Elgood (Rainbow Fund); who collectively enabled the development and construction of Brighton’s AIDS memorial. From their feedback The Brighton writer was able to find out that the AIDS memorial project faced a fair few hurdles, including protests that fundraising for the project would take away funds from other local HIV health care. This issue was quickly resolved by Paul Elgood and James Ledward’s reassurance that all fundraising for the AIDS memorial would be raised through individual and business private backers.) Romany also worked for two years on the project free of charge, allowing all funds raised to go towards the completion of the AIDS memorial project.

One of the other major problems Romany faced was having the 11ft clay structure collapse while he was working on it, forcing him to begin the project all over again. This storyline gave The Brighton Writer the perfect opportunity to combine the ‘Brighton Angels’ alongside Romany’s journey in the construction and unveiling of the AIDS memorial By David Furnish.

Part way through, the clay structure collapsed on top of Romany mark Bruce

Part way through, the clay structure collapsed on top of Romany mark Bruce

 

Romany Mark Bruce

 

The middle section of my storyline was used as a vehicle to not only to introduce some of the other well-known faces from the Brighton scene but also allowing me to promote some of the LGBT projects they have been involved in. The main bases of the storyline was to introduce James Ledward and The Golden Handbag Awards; a project that give the LGBT community an opportunity to celebrate individuals and groups achievements from the previous 12 months. Within the storyline I also included Stephanie Starlet, who had led the march for Stomp out Stigma campaign, as part of LGBT mental health group, MindOut. Unfortunately this piece of information hit the editing floor, so I have included it here.

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PTDC0037The other well-known face on the scene I included was Ant Howells; partly for his longstanding involvement with the Sussex Beacon fundraising/social group, Bear-Patrol, as well as his involvement with HIV groups like Act-Up who were an extremely important campaign group who helped bring the plight of those living with HIV/dying from AIDS.

Jason Sutton aka Miss Jason and Poo-la-May also appear allowing me to mention one of Brighton’s oldest and perhaps most infamous gay pubs, The Bulldog and Club Revenge; both venues would be instrumental in development of the Gay Village in Brighton as we know it today.

The final story from the trilogy tells the story of Brighton’s Hankie Quilt Project. At the time of researching varies ideas for the final tale, I was introduced to Maurice Mchale Parry, who along with Peter Moxom, revived the idea of the the Names Quilt Project, through the Hankie Quilt Project, inspired by the 25th anniversary of the Names Quilt Project. Both projects have great strength in their simplicity by inviting people who had lost friends, loveres, family members to AIDS, to sew their name onto a piece of fabric, which in turn made up a quilt of many names, memories and love.

 

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The piece couldn’t be finish without a mention of Brighton’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Pride. From a few of us gathering in Queens Park to protest about the Consecrative Parties legislation, Clause 28, which effectively stopped school teachers discussing homosexuality with their pupils, leaving many young LGBTQ people unsure about how they were feeling, and without any knowledge of who to turn to for help. Since then, Brighton Pride has become an extremely important date in many LGBTQ people’s diaries, not only as time to celebrate, but to also remember their are still many counties whose anti-LGBTQ laws are causing misery and oppression and that will always be the main driving force for the visibility of Brighton Pride as we all protest and celebrate and party on down for future generations to come who will in turn leave their own mark and become part of Brighton’s unique history. The final panel had originally been designed with a host of volunteer groups from the LGBT community being represented. It was with regret that this grand scene was also to hit the editing floor, but the prominence of the AIDS quilt, the main players and one of Brighton’s most iconic tourists attractions, The Royal Pavilion helped frame this important slice of Brighton’s history.Final splash page, all the main players come together.

 

 

 

 

One more thing, check out the brilliant animation from Angie Thomas, who has brought the whole project to life.

http://www.angiethomas.co.uk/portfolio/brighton-the-graphic-novel

queensparkbooks.org.uk

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Over the Rainbow (Fund)

Over the last few weeks there has been much to celebrate and remember within the LGBTQ community, which is really important to make note of.

This year while waiting (and waiting) to get into this years  Brighton Pride, I heard a lot of people complaining about how long it took to get into the event and the price of tickets. 

To be fair, those organising the event had to ensure security me suers were in place, so long queues were inevitable. On the plus side of things, the sun was shining and once inside the park there were just about every kind of visual entreatment you could possible wish for. Personally, I thought the early bird ticket price of £9.00 was a bargain

More importantly and something that many people perhaps are unaware of is £1.00 from each ticket was ring-fenced for the Rainbow Fund which, along with a host of other individuals and groups including: Bear-Patrol’s, ‘Bear Weekender’, Legends, Tony Chapman, Queens Arms, A-Bar, Charle’s Street, David Raven, James Ledward, The Brighton Gay Men’s Chorus and Many more helped raise over £41,000 for local HIV/LGBTQ charities.

For the uninitiated, The Rainbow Fund was initially set up by Gscene’s James Ledward and Paul Elgood to help fund the development and construction Brighton’s AIDS Memorial, with local artist Romany Mark Bruce giving all his time for free in creating the finished piece.

Since then, The Rainbow Fund has been the hub for excepting donations which in turn are given out as grants to local LGBTQ/HIV charity organisations, who each apply via a vigorous process ensuring the funds are used to help benefit the individual groups maxim potential in all areas.

This year The Brighton Writer attended The Rainbow Fund annual awards ceremony, hosted by the irrepressible Lola Lasagne aka Stephen Richards, along with many familiar faces from Brighton, including, Gary Pargeter (Lunch Positive) James Ledward (Gscene) Cllr Bill Randall, Deputy Mayor of Brighton & Hove, David Raven and Romany Mark Bruce, Jennie Castell, Davian Sparkle, David Harvie (Brighton Bear Weekend) and Philip Marini (Rainbow Fund) who were all on hand to present the grants to the following organisations.

Allsorts – £5.000 For a youth engagement worker to support the Transformer Group for young Trans* people.

Clare Project – £4,640 to extend their psychotherapy and speech therapy sessions Trans* people.

Brighton Gems – £4.000 towards support cost for befriending & support work for older gay men.

LGBT community Safety Forum –  £7.000 towards hate crime advocacy.

LGBT Switchboard – £2.500 towards clinical supervision for counsellors.

Lunch Positive – £7,000 towards food, venue hire and lunch club running cost for people with HIV.

MindOut – £7.000 towards peer support groups and housing advice for people with mental health issues.

IMG_0050Peer Action – £5.000 for health and wellbeing activities for those living with HIV.

 

 

 

 

Sussex Beacon – £4.000 towards a new occupational therapy project.The remaining funds were earmarked for a feasibility study to develop a funding needs assessment of all LGBT organisations, the service they provide and their future grant needs.

Individuals from each of the groups took to the stage to talk a little about how the grants awarded their group is so important and what a difference it will make in the coming year.

 The evening was a great success and an important event to remind us all that although the queue at Pride was a little tedious, by buying our ticket we each contributed in helping some amazing LGBTQ/HIV groups continue in making a huge difference to many people all year round. 

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