I’m in my usual spot. Notebook on one side. Coffee on the other. Flicking through a newspaper. News. Gossip. Katie Price’s tits. Then I come across an interview with Tom Ford, discussing the film he just directed, A Single Man (based on the 1964 novella by Christopher Isherwood).
I’m a big Isherwood fan, so I’m really looking forward to seeing this film. But what has been disappointing is that this is now the third interview I’ve read where Ford has tried to distance himself from the film’s homosexuality ‘It’s not a gay movie. Absolutely not,’ he said in one interview. ‘We edited out the gay kiss from the trailer,’ said another. And then the phrase he keeps coming out with, ‘I don’t define myself by my sexuality.’ Given Isherwood’s disappointment over the way the homosexuality was trivialised in Cabaret he must be turning in his grave at this reticence.
Now I know how market forces work and I understand why the financiers, the cast and the crew feel that they have to downplay the gay angle to make the film more ‘palatable’ for a mainstream audience. I get that. I don’t particularly like it. But I get it. But to cap it off with that tired old line about, ‘I don’t live my life around my sexuality.’ Honey. Please. Of course you do. We all do. Whether we’re aware of it or not.
So let’s look at the facts.
Ford has had a male partner for many years (now that already sounds pretty ‘defining’ to me). He’s had a huge career in ‘high end’ fashion (an industry that attracts more than it’s fair share of gay men). He’s said that he was attracted to Isherwood’s ‘ground breaking’ gay novel when he was young and it resonated with him (do you see a pattern here?). And now, years later, he’s turned it into a film. Now these choices weren’t coincidental. Whether he likes it or not his sexuality, and the culture with which it is linked, has influenced his life in a big way and continues to do so. To deny this is cowardly.
If I look at my life, the one I’m living at this exact moment, it’s inextricably linked to my sexuality. It governs who I am and nearly everything I do. For instance, I’m writing this column in Soho. Not Epping. Or Staines. Or Bromley by Bow. But Soho. And there’s a reason for that. It’s the centre of London gay life and I feel comfortable here.
I’m dressed in a style that is reflects my identity. I’m not wearing a hoodie, or a Kagool or a Mr Byrite suit. I’m wearing moleskin ‘army style’ Kenzo coat because my culture has taken the military look, re-appropriated it and sexualised it.
My hair is cut a certain way. Twenty five years ago it was black and crimped (back-combed on a Saturday night). Five years later it was highlighted (modelled on Lady Di). But for the past few years, like many gay men my age, I’ve keep it short (number one at the sides and number three on top).
When I finish writing this ‘gay related’ column it will be placed on a particular website. Not the Daily Mail‘s. Not the Catholic Herald’s. But Polari‘s. And it will (hopefully) attract a certain reader. Not Jeremy Clarkson. Not Buju Banton. But a gay or ‘gay friendly’ reader.
In a minute I’ll order a coffee, but I’ll pass on the sugar because, bombarded with images of youthful gay men with six-packs, I’m borderline body dysmorphic.
Now let’s look back on my last week.
On Tuesday I went to the British Library to hear a talk entitled, ‘500 Years of Lesbian and Gay-Related Material in the British Library’ (kind of speaks for itself this one). On Wednesday I went to the Soho Theatre to see the radical drag performer, Bette Bourne, in his three act play (bit too ‘staged’ for my liking, but the tickets were only a fiver). On Thursday I went to the South Bank to hear Rupert Smith read from his novel, Man’s World (a novel that covers gay life from the ’50s to the present day). Then, at various points, I’ve been trying to help a friend who has been positive for many years, and, wracked with health issues, has resorted to blanking out reality with drugs.
Thus, I can trace just about everything – the way I look, the choices I make, the time I spend, the interests I have, the people I mix with – back to my gay identity. So when I hear Ford bleat on and on about ‘not living his life around his sexuality’ it makes me feel sad that someone in such a prominent position feels the need to downplay, not only his own homosexuality, but also the homosexuality in his, what I’m sure will be, otherwise excellent film.
There. Rant over.
Now, should I have a piece of cake? Hmmm. Maybe not…