Continuing our series looking at the issue of Gay Shame and Sexuality, this week activist, journalist and performer Dan Glass looks back at growing up gay in a less than supportive school environment…
When I was a teenager in school, instead of turning up to class to learn about how to fit neatly into the straight and religious world that I was being offered by my school and my Orthodox Jewish background, I took much more pleasure in hitting the London gay scene. Due to this I spent most of my spare time in school detention. This is where I wrote my first poem – it was on gay sex, shame, pride and my total pleasure in exploring anal sex. I never showed it to anyone. But when QX asked me to write a piece for its series looking at the issue of gay shame and sexuality, I just had to dig it out of my old schoolbooks – and here it is.
Sorry I was late for football again sir
I’ve injured myself
Can’t sit down as my backsides taken a stir
But you know, here we go
In truth, I’ve been living the dream
And only now, I begin to see what it all means
I’ve always wondered what’s the fuss
With all this straight wanderlust
We’re living a lie
In a big fat straight pie
I wanna love you John
But inside I cry
An abomination, the Jews say
Make them change, the Christians pray
A sin (to rim) shout the Muslims as they go grey.
God don’t seem to like it our way
But it’s your loss you schmod
As you ignore your G spot
I’ve romanced in a temple with the moon riding high
Fallen in love with a creationist and my oh my
I’ve sucked off a man who was hung like a horse
Indeed he was a Jew in the Israeli defence force!
Without being a gay
For come what may
This raucous world of Vauxhall, Miami and Berlin
Of GHB, Diazepam and Ketamine,
Would be replaced by missionary, marriage and mortgage buy-ins
We may not be perfect, I know
As the drink, drugs and superficial culture
Makes our spirits lay low
But let’s remember before we all go,
Shakespeare, Aristotle and Oscar Wilde
All liked a good blow
And thanks for your kind discussions of marriage equality (with conditions)
But I’d rather have fun with all this gaiety
So keep buying the silk cushions
For your closeted space
The world of heterosexuality is a sick and twisted place
So one day my mind may shrivel and go black but who cares?
Cos right now it’s time for pay back
And, deep down, we all know
Its magic up the dirt track!
After school was done and I was out of detention I began to speak more openly when witnessing the despair and suicides of many young LGBTQI friends. Their sense of hopelessness, fears that life is without meaning, profound loneliness and lovelessness swiped the carpet from underneath my hedonistic feet and made me search my soul for life’s meaning. I started to think about the significance of being queer, the idea that there’s more to life than just our own little egos on legs. Being proudly queer for me is a deeply spiritual and political act.
Not conforming, or being ‘othered’ by mainstream society I believe sharpens our gifts as intelligent human beings and provides us with an inbuilt sense of justice for all. Whenever I get depressed as to the levels of homophobic or HIV prejudice in the world I try to embrace this, to ‘own’ these possibilities and potentialities, and to help create a culture of liberation for the LGBTQI community.
This attitude helped as a few years later, I was infected with HIV. Oh, how I wished that I’d listened about LGBT issues and HIV in sex education class! Not that I would have been there even if they had it. I was too busy in Soho!
My face was slammed against the window to try to make sense of life. I was quiet for a while.
A few years after the diagnosis I was saying to my best mate at a party that I was finding it frustrating speaking to so many friends who were getting upset finding out I was HIV positive. It was taking up a lot of time and energy. I was like “How can I deal with this?” and she was like, “I know, why don’t you do some sort of coming out show to all of your mates and family at once. We’ll get a venue and do a big raucous show about being [HIV] positive and the realities of it but doing it in a really celebratory way, rather than a ‘We’re all gonna die’ kind of way.”
So that’s how it came about, a coming out show, almost like Stars in Their Eyes, where you tell your story from infection to what it’s meant to you in terms of friends and lovers. We even built a nine-foot giant cock.
It’s taking a heavy issue and making it digestible. Fear is paralysing, so how can we talk about gay sex and HIV and laugh about it and play with an issue?
I think with homophobia and HIV – as with many issues – sincerity, earnestness and internalised seriousness can often paralyse people into inaction. Humour is not about trivialising an issue, it’s about making it more digestible. Only once we digest the information can we begin to understand what’s making life tough for us and how we can make things better. The lack of LGBT sex education, the cuts to HIV education and prevention services, the dismantling of the NHS, the role of activism and coming together to confront public policy – and so much more – makes it political, fun, easier for people and ultimately life-affirming.
Take the example of HIV, in maybe more of a subconscious way, when you’re diagnosed, you grieve for the loss of your health, your pride, your dignity, family and libido. Because of a ‘better out than in’ attitude loads of my mates have got involved and now they’re all HIV activists in their own right. They’re much more educated about it now than even some people with HIV.
The LGBTQI community have a rich tradition of fighting against all odds and holding our heads up high. Whilst the Government fails to act in providing the LGBT education that the next generation needs, let’s find other ways, there’s no time to waste.
As Einstein says: “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”
• Dan Glass is part of a panel discussion looking at the issue of LGBT+ inclusive sex & relationship education in schools on Wednesday 18th February, 6pm to 8pm at 20th Century House (31-32 Soho Square, W1D 3AP).
Facebook event page: http://on.fb.me/1K3AjEN
The event is FREE but booking is recommended by email to [email protected]