We're All Queer Now, Dear ; Tomorrow, East London Hosts the Annual Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. but, These Days, You Don't Actually Have to Be Gay to Go. JOHN WALSH Explains Why the Old Rules No Longer Apply
Walsh, John, The Independent (London, England)
The fourth Mardi Gras festival pitches camp in Hackney Marshes, east London, this weekend, a kind of gay mini-Glastonbury with floppy- fringed boy bands, seven dance arenas, comedy acts, an "inter-faith blessing tent" and a few thousand revellers cruising past in tight PVC strides, sheer black vests, polka-dot frocks and purple fright-wigs (and that's just the accountants).
Will you be going? Come now, don't be shy. Gone are the days when you would have thought the question odd, or answered, "But I'm not gay" (unless, of course, you are). Nor would you dream of saying, "I can't go to the Mardi Gras because everyone who looks at me will assume I'm gay." First, because nobody will be looking at you at all, dear, and, second, because that's a paranoid assumption based on an ancient, homophobic slur that there is something wrong with "being homosexual".
You must realise, we are all gay now. All of us, from the lollipop man outside my children's school to the mustachioed butcher who serves my rib of beef in Vauxhall, from the bosomy barmaid at the Rose & Crown to the Mother Superior at the Sisters of Charity, we're all secretly as gay as bunting. We all secretly fancy our own gender; we gorge on gay culture from morn till night; we embrace the camp, the flamboyant and the marginal as enthusiastically as Priscilla, Queen of the Desert...
That, at least, has been one of the argu-ments of Queer Theory over the past 30 years. In the days of Gay Lib, c1971-2, it was argued that the words "homosexual" and "heterosexual" were artificial distinctions in a world where feelings of attraction simply flowed between and around the genders, and it was OK if you really wanted to snog your best (male) pal. Foucault and his peers deconstructed the received wisdom about homosexual identity, the phrase "polymorphous perversity" was heard, and we learnt to cultivate a more relaxed attitude toward our own fancied sexual orientation.
Now, Boy George has found a new perspective on gayness. In his introduction to Queer: the ultimate user's guide, he announces, "As you look around you, you realise that everyone these days is gay... Whether you enjoy a night in front of Sex and the City or The Golden Girls, or a night out in some foxy tight jeans reeking of the latest Calvin Klein scent, you're gay whether you're into the same or the opposite sex." Gay culture has penetrated so far into the mainstream of Western culture, he argues, it's no longer possible to think of it as something marginal. Gayness is now at the centre of things - principally at the centre of the culture we consume, the movies and TV we watch, the music we dance to, the way we talk and behave and go shopping. It's all as gay as paper hats.
Of course, Boy George is a living embodiment of the principle. He's one of the cultural commissars of the Noughties, someone whose views demand respect, even when he's talking about anal G-spots on The Frank Skinner Show. George's musical, Taboo, which opened recently to rave reviews, is doing better business (with gay and straight audiences) than Bombay Dreams, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang or We Will Rock You. Other gay icons are not so much tolerated as embraced, feted, knighted. Sir Elton John thinks of himself (with some justice) as alternative British royalty. Julian Clary can make jokes about "fisting" Lord Lamont and assume his audience will know what he's talking about. Graham Norton commands the late-night chat- show airwaves, amusing audiences of …
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Publication information: Article title: We're All Queer Now, Dear ; Tomorrow, East London Hosts the Annual Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. but, These Days, You Don't Actually Have to Be Gay to Go. JOHN WALSH Explains Why the Old Rules No Longer Apply. Contributors: Walsh, John - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: July 5, 2002. Page number: 6. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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