Wednesday, 3 November 2010


Each week Grey Gays turn to the Gay media for information and moral support, but what kind of reception are they getting? LG's Stephen McKenna finds out:

I seem to spend a lot of time reassuring 'lately-gays' that their age won't count against them on Planet Gay, much as they often imagine.

It's hardly an irrational fear. If a guy is in his middle years he's unlikely to have the gym-fit body he once had (thanks gravity!) and his pace of life will be several stops down from his days as a spunky twenty-year old; and yes, we can all be a little bit caught up on the eye-candy, lolling after toned Aussie-Bum boys and the preening Muscle Marys on a Pride march.

But, tish-and-pish! A lately-gay will find no shortage of sex if he wants it, and he's no need to fear a 24 year old lad chatting him up will turn out to be a rent-boy. Just as some of us like younger guys, there are those who prefer older guys.

However, the public health warning that I do have to issue concerns the gay media, most of which seems to assume that the older gay shuffles off to Shoreham-by-the-Sea on reachng forty-five,
or embarks on a twilight tour of National Trust gift shops.

This reaction, for my part, isn't just some grey-and-grumpy chippiness, but a reality that's apparent in any page-flick survey of the listings freebies and the lifestyle glossies. Recent editions of GT, Attitude, AXM, Bent, Boyz & QX, thoroughly thumbed, featured virtually no pictures or content relating to anyone far above their Forties
. (Cross my Playtex and hope to sag!)

Things weren't much better in the Pink Paper. As a newspaper I'd half expect a broader coverage given that they're not so 'lifestyle' based, but each week they score heavily on the ageism front with their 'Word On The Street' vox pop on a topical feature. This week, much as any other week, we have interviews with eight gay people, six of whom are twenty-three or under
(75%!) while one is thirty-two, and the eighth - a whopping forty-three (cue patronising round of applause and isn't it marvellous that he can still get out!). Even then the average age is just 25.

Elsewhere in the paper there are some older faces but they do tend to be the usual suspects ie. Biggins, Cashman, Fry, Gandolf & O'Grady. (How's that for a Country act?). Yes, they are grey and gay - hurray! But their presence is more to do with celebrity than any grey payback as such.

Granted, such ageism runs through the straight media too, but on the basis that the gay community is meant to be all about fighting prejudice and hypocrisy, how can our media let itself down so badly by ignoring a whole section of its own readership.

OK, if I feel that strongly about it, you might say, why don't I set up my own magazine specifically for older gay men. Yes, I could do that and pretty well have with LG, but as a sub-group of a sub-group it's not exactly viable, and anyway, it smacks to me of a kind of 'geris-get-out' nimbyism.

This is a problem that goes beyond questions of what's fair or politically correct. The truth is the gay community, and particularly its younger people, are being denied a sense of perspective. They ought to know that there are things to which we all have to face up to in time: issues of money & savings, health, commitment and caring for the older amongst us - and not just on the basis of the odd bi-annual 'crinklies special'.

Age is something that happens to us all and there's no shortage of colourful and lively column inches to be had out of the older occupants of Planet Gay, but just what will it take for our media to acknowledge that, to put into practice the tolerance and inclusivity it's so otherwise keen to preach.

Maybe Stonewall can take a lead by reworking their 'Some People Are Gay ...' campaign. This time it should read:

"Some people are g(r)ay. Get over that!"

Tuesday, 2 November 2010


The symbol of the Pride movement is the Rainbow flag but colour the world's map according to nations' attitudes to homosexuality and it produces a picture of a very different complexion. LG goes global to find out how gay our world really is:

Last month, as I joined the London Pride March through London’s West End, I thought: ‘how fantastic – we’re turning the capitol gay for a day!’; and indeed we are at a very good place in 2010.

100,000 were estimated by police to have attended the different events – evidence of our growing social acceptance. We now also have legal protection against discrimination and binding civil partnerships.

Life is good. Well, certainly life is better, but at the Pride Rally that afternoon several of the speakers sobered up the revellers with reminders of the parts of the world where being gay can still be the death of a person.

It’s the story shown on the map above (click to enlarge) going as it does from a Wildean carnation green to a dark, bloody burgundy.

As you’ll see, it’s a gay friendliest world in California, Canada and parts of Northern Europe and getting friendlier all the time in neighbouring waters and in much of the Southern Hemisphere too, but across much of Africa, the Middle East and the sub Continent there is a very different reality.

Sierra Leone, Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Uganda and Pakistán, for example, are countries where homosexual offences may be punished by life imprisonment, while in Nigeria, Somalia and Afghanistan, in areas where Shari'a law has jurisdition, a death penalty may be imposed.

That's not necessarily some hypothetical 'may be', as just this week a
Shari’a court in Northern Nigeria has passed a sentence of death by stoning on a 55 year old man "for committing sodomy".

Elsewhere in the world of Islam the screws are being turned ever more tightly on homosexuality as it becomes increasingly snarled in the rise of fundamentalism.

A recent BBC/Radio Netherlands documentary tells the story of Palestinians desperate to flee to Israel because they will fare better there with a possibility of asylum as against the treatment they may receive at the hands of their own community. The gamble they face is that they can apply for asylum only once, and if rejected, Israel may return them into the hands of their likely persecutors anyway. This is the fate of 25 year Rami who fled to Tel Aviv as a teenager.

"I am afraid, really afraid. One of the last times I was deported, the Israelis left me on a deserted road. I saw a lot of people from my village and they started asking me what I was doing there. I don't speak very good Arabic anymore, so they started saying that I was a collaborator. I was afraid they would kill me . I fear my brother and Hamas more than the Israeli police, because if the Israelis catch me, they won't kill me. They will just arrest me. But Hamas will surely kill me."

Depressingly, the documentary concludes that in a situation as complex as the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, the fate of homosexuals and lesbians is an easily ignored detail on a much bigger canvas.

So, here am I now a lately gayer delighted to have finally made the party, but also reminded by this map that there are many for whom the party will never begin. SM/LG

The documentary quoted in this article, The Gay Divide: Islam and Homosexuality (BBC Radio4/Radio Netherlands), is available for online listening by clicking on the programme title.


Gay map has been adapted from a version published on Wikipedia (user: Silje/Murrayrbuckley) by 'Stevie Pics Photography' for 'LG' and is reproduced subject to the terms and conditions of
GNU Free Documentation License

Monday, 1 November 2010


More and more research confirms what we always knew - we're born gay and genealogy almost certainly plays a part. So why, when Stephen McKenna takes a peek into the family closet, does he find it so very bare?

The first date on my father's familys tombstone in rural Ireland applies to that of my great great great grandfather Nicholas McKenna who departed this world in 1786.

Now, he wasn't gay and, as far as anyone can reasonably know, there never ever was a gay McKenna until I came along some 220 years later and tipped over the whole apple cart. I must have given it a knock when I burst out of the closet I'd been imprisoned in for the previous forty years. Yes, an unbroken 220 year run of traditional masculinity and manly celtic ways had been undone in the shake of a very bent shilelagh .

Even amongst the present metro sexual generation (we've long since moved off the land) which includes my three brothers, my sister and some 22 cousins on that side of the family, I is still the only gay in the village!

Mind, there was a Great Uncle (T.P.McKenna). He never married, emigrated to the Argentine and wrote poetry! He's often had me speculating if he was perhaps a prior pink sheep of the family. Well, writing poetry of itself is hardly a gay indictment and as for his South American getaway - that was for health reasons. He'd contracted TB while hiding out in the Dublin mountains on the run from the Black & Tans during the original Troubles. Not that it proved to be much of a remedy as he was dead by 34, but I just wonder.

And what of the other unknown homosexual figures that must linger in the family's distant shadows? How would they have coped with their repressed and frustrated lives where pulpit thumping clerics tormented their flocks with threats of eternities held in dungeons with walls a thousand miles thick.

Were their frustrations spent on tethered beasts in the farthest field or, worse still, did they end up in the priesthood compelled to do terrible damage. Well, I don't know about the former but it definitely won't have been the latter as there were no Father McKennas. There were a number of Sister McKennas who took up the veil and spinster aunts but I'll thank you not to suggest that any of them may have been lesbians - and anyway everyone knows that if it wasn't for the telly which Ireland did fine without until the 1960s Ireland would be as wholly devoid of any of that kind of thing as it is clear of snakes.

There is as it happens a priest on my mother's side - an Archbishop actually, since you didn't ask, but his position is unassailable. Let's just leave it at that.

Indeed, speaking of my mother's family, that line can't be traced for 220 years, but still it's a similar tale of holy and catholically stable marriages going back as long as your arm. That is ... until now.

Yes, I'm much less lonely in my pink tent on that side of the family. There are just seventeen of us in the present generation (as against 27 on the other side) and out of that we score a much more credible two gays and a lesbian. That's fully 20%.

So, we can clearly see the genealogical curveball at work on my mother's side, and yet not apparently on my father's side, which given the larger family sizes there should perhaps have provided more opportunity for the gay gene to work through.

I suspect for the moment I'm going to have to consign that part of the family history to societal factors and a family dynasty that has always been fiercely patriarchal.

With any luck though I didn't close the door of the closet too firmly behind me as I left and who knows whose face maybe peering through the crack right now. Which cousin or nephew or neice will be the next?
Come out, come out, whoever you are! SM/LG

Saturday, 30 October 2010


On the Talking Point this week 'Gay's the Word - Or Is It?'

I heard that tired old complaint the other day about how sad it was that that lovely word 'gay' had been 'stolen by the homosexuals'!

I'm not sure at which particular smash 'n' grab raid this shocking felony is imagined to have taken place, but I suspect it was more a case o
f a neglected and battered word having been hauled out of a skip in Dictionary Corner.

In its previous guise, 'gay' is a word I've most regularly associated with an era of 'bright young things' in the 20s and 30s. An age when young people were hellbent on being carefree and, as Noel Coward might have pirrupped, 'irreprehensibly irresponsible', as they sought to escape the heavy shadow of guilt cast by a generation wasted on the fields of the Somme or at Ypres. Glitter and be gay for tomorrow you might die, seemed to be their motto.

In time, a massive depression, another world war and the austerity of the 1950s eventually did for the word 'gay' and into the skip it went.

However, it's adoption by the early gay rights movement as early as the late 1960s draws close parallels with that earlier incarnation of the word.

Now, as then, there was another new and bright generation rebelling against the strictures of the past. Homosexual this time, as it happens, and no less determined to cast off a shadow. The shadow of repression that had seen them and their forebears closted for generations. A decisive moment to say to the world 'We're just gay. And that means as Good As You!'

So, gay is the word and it fits us very nicely, and anyway, the English language has got back the word 'queer', just about. SM/LG