Archive for category: Editorial

Polari Magazine 2008-2014

Polari’s editor announces a new arts festival, Qr, explains where Polari is going next and why it is no longer publishing as a website magazine.


On the 3rd of December 2014, to mark its 6th birthday, Polari Magazine enters a new stage of its history. No longer will the website be updated with new articles purely because the way that we use the internet has changed, and the way that people obtain information from it has evolved. The idea of a magazine website is not the same as it was even 3 years ago, when Polari relaunched with a new look and build. In-depth articles and lengthy reviews are, more and more, suited to different mediums. The evolution of the tablet and the Kindle, as well as that of the smartphone, has altered the way that information is disseminated and read. Where printed magazines once were, the tablet and the Kindle now are – but the website is somewhere else. And so Polari Magazine, which has always been delivered as a website, equally needs to evolve. That said, the content from the last six years, content of which I am really proud, will be maintained as an archive as this process of evolution occurs.

As an arts and culture publication, Polari has been involved in a variety of on-the-ground projects and worked with a host of creative talents. The first stage of its latest evolution is the announcement of a very different arts festival, Qr, which will launch in October 2015. (You can visit right now.) Qr, like Polari Magazine, is intended to be a high-end, real alternative on the festival circuit, with the aim of exploring queer culture in a way that makes it stand out from its contemporaries.

The first play produced under the Polari banner, In The Life: A History of Polari, played at the St James Theatre in June 2013. As a result of that play we worked with one of its stars, Champagne Charlie, and the broadcasting company Pup Ltd, to create a video of one of the featured songs, ‘Bona Eke’. The video and the song will be released for digital download on the 8th of December. It’s a spell-binding performance by Champagne Charlie, and an exceptional video from Pup’s Daniel Hall. And it’s a taste of what you can expect from the future of Polari

For its six years, Polari Magazine has been run as a community project and put together wholly in the time lent by its founders and contributors. It has been run on the sheer energy of those invested in the project with no external financial input. Then, it was never intended to be a product, but rather a real alternative to the litany of soulless lifestyle magazines and websites whose ends are sacrificed to commercial needs. That was achieved through finding a team of exceptional contributors without whom these high aims would never have been met. It is sad that we’ve struggled to get the support of key figures in the community, and that our content was not shared on social networks by such groups, barring a few notable exceptions.

In an era of information overload, and the punchy immediacy of social networks, a website needs quick fire stories, and the extensive use of hyperbole to catch a reader’s attention. “And you won’t believe what happens next…” This is not what Polari is about and so it is time to refocus. As well as the on-the-ground work with arts festival Qr, we’ll be looking for a publisher interested in running Polari Magazine as a digital and paper quarterly. It is the medium to which it truly belongs – not the fleeting world of the web, but the storehouse of our culture that can be read, and can travel, anywhere.

Happy 5th Birthday to Polari

Today, December 3, is Polari Magazine‘s 5th birthday. Here Polari’s editor writes about how it stepped off the virtual pages this year and into the sensual world.

Polari Magazine 5th Anniversary Banner

The 5th year of Polari Magazine was a fast-paced one, with many events happening off the virtual page and in the sensual world. The relationship between an online arts & culture publication, and a real world arts & culture organisation, is one that will animate Polari’s 6th year.

It all got started in January 2013 with Polari ‘s role in establishing the Pride Arts Programme. The newly formed London Community Pride was set up to regenerate London’s Pride celebrations, and one of the board’s members, Wendyl Harris, asked us to help her revive the Pride arts festival of days gone by. Along with Helen Bee, LCP’s volunteer coordinator, we set up the programme of events. We also built the website that made the Programme possible, and it was a cornerstone of the new Pride. Even the Prime Minister, David Cameron, sent his congratulations.

In The Life, St James Theatre, Polari Magazine

© Dan Hall     (Click Images to enlarge)

As part of the Pride celebrations, I decided to write a play. In The Life: A History of Polari was hosted at the St James Theatre in June. The idea was to stage a radio play as a nod to the BBC’s Round the Horne, the 1960s programme on which the characters of Julian and Sandy mocked the censors with their use of the Polari lexicon. Yet long before Julian and Sandy, Polari was only understood by the initiated. It allowed gay men to talk openly about what they thought of the man next to them, what they did last night, and who they did it to, all without being understood by the average person on the street. The play mixed narration, sketches and characters to trace the history of Polari back to the 15th century.

Queer Britannia at Tate Britain, Polari Magazine

At the same time, Polari’s Arts Editor, Michael Langan, had collaborated with Tate to host a tour of the Tate Britain’s galleries called Queer Britannia. The event was so popular that it was oversubscribed. It was in fact so successful, so well received, that the Tate asked Michael to run the tour as part of the celebration day that opened Tate Britain’s new and renovated spaces on November 23. The tour was packed, and over capacity, with around 400 people.

The artist David Shenton had an exhibition that was featured in the Pride Arts Programme. Polari interviewed David, and off the back of that he started a new series of cartoons to be published in the magazine, ‘Polari Safari’. David has chronicled gay life since the 1970s, and to have him as part of the Polari team is a great honour.

The most difficult and involved project I volunteered in this year was The Green Carnation Prize. 5 judges read a great many books published this year by international LGBT authors. It was an exhausting and rewarding experience. The book that won the prize, Far From The Tree by Andrew Solomon, is one that will change your life.

Polari Magazine has had a whirlwind 5th year, and that’s thanks to the commitment of its contributors, who have kept the content fresh and alive as we diversified into projects that stepped away from its day-to-day running. And so happy 5th birthday to Polari and a year that has been, as E.M. Forster wrote of Beethoven’s 5th in Howards End, defined by “the gusts of splendour, the heroism, the youth, the magnificence of life and of death, amidst vast roarings of superhuman joy”.

The Unholy Trinity

What happens now, asks Polari’s editor, in the wake of the controversy over Julie Burchill’s unhinged tirade against trans women?

Unholy Trinity, Julie Bindel, Julie Burchill, Suzanne Moore

As the virtual tides recede in the wake of the latest Twitter storm, and we gather in front of our screens, physically isolated yet electronically together, it is time to survey the wreckage. One thing is for sure: the façade has been undeniably stripped from the Church of the Unholy Trinity where the cultural commentators Suzanne Moore, Julie Bindel and Julie Burchill used to look down on their flock of readers and instruct them in how to view the world. Now the workings are revealed, and it’s clearly not a Church but a playground, and the three journalists have been shown for what they are: angry, name-calling bullies.

What can be now be said about the storm that started on Twitter, and raged into a tsunami when Julie Burchill penned an unhinged rant in defence of Suzanne Moore? Roz Kaveney, in the article ‘Julie Burchill has ended up bullying the trans community’, said it clear: “The basic point behind everything [Burchill] says is that trans people lead essentially inauthentic existences and that hers, as a working-class novelist with a taste for lobster and champagne, is real life. The idea that some sorts of human life are true and others fake has a worrying history; you find it in many sorts of religious belief and various sorts of totalitarian philosophy.”

Rather than debate the issues raised by the wrangle on Twitter over the use of the phrase “Brazilian transsexual”, the three writers went into attack mode. First, Suzanne Moore hit back at all criticism, which ranged from the reasonable to the abusive, and ended up closing her Twitter account. “People can just fuck off really. Cut their dicks off and be more feminist than me. Good for them,” she tweeted.

Then Burchill seized the opportunity to launch an attack on all things trans. She was “indignant that a woman of such style and substance should be driven from her chosen mode of time-wasting by a bunch of dicks in chicks’ clothing.” And from there she discharged a tirade of insults, calling trans women over-privileged “shims, shemales” and “bed-wetters in bad wigs”. Burchill champions the fact that she is a “natural-born” woman “of working class origin”, and writes as if this gives her carte blanché to say whatever she likes.

Following on from that, Julie Bindel, who rather imperiously doesn’t approve of anything trans or bisexual, jumped in and tweeted, “This has been a long time coming, the bullying has to stop”. In her eyes, remarkably, it’s the journalists who are the target of bullying from – in her paranoid conservative phrase – “the trans cabal”.

And the battle rages on as journalists and editors react in panic and cry “free speech”. Editors at the Independent stepped in to defend Burchill. They write with self-righteous indignation and cannot see the difference between hate speech and free speech. Why should they? Like the Unholy Trinity, they know better than “the Twitter mob”, as Simon Kelner calls it, or “the sensitivity police”, to use Terence Blacker’s reactionary Daily Mail-esque phrasing. Yet after Burchill’s article was published in the Observer, the old media and social media debate was no longer about the initial confrontation on Twitter. It became about the right of a journalist to publish a pejorative attack on a minority group and have that attack endorsed by a national newspaper.

In February 2012, the footballer Ravel Morrison was fined £7,000 by the Football Association for a homophobic tweet. The following month, Federico Macheda was fined £15,000 for doing the same. The Independent reported both stories, but no editorials were written invoking their right to free speech. Yet when Burchill writes a litany of insults that are then published in a respected newspaper – not on the unregulated Twitter – free speech is all of a sudden under grave threat.

Instead of getting worked up over free speech, perhaps these writers should try showing some basic humanity, and recognising that this vile outburst is just not acceptable. “She’s still got it,” writes Simon Kelner, in a deplorable interpretation of Burchill’s right to view controversial opinions. He thinks she is a maverick thinker who challenges the accepted order, and so consequently anything goes.

What this comes down to is neither censorship nor free speech. The Observer granted Burchill a platform to air her ignorant rhetoric in an inconsistent, third-rate article that should have been rejected based on nothing more than standard editorial policy. The Observer does not publish every rant that comes its way. If Burchill wants to exercise free speech she can write a blog. To afford her special privileges in a national newspaper is irresponsible.

And what of Suzanne Moore? In an article published in the Guardian about the Twitter scandal (but not the substance of Burchill’s subsequent ‘defence’) she accepts a certain amount of responsibility. It’s an extremely well-written polemic, with a careful use of learnéd quotations, and a considered amount of deflection in order to position the issue squarely on her own terms. “I believe in sexual liberation, which is not the same as equality,” writes Moore. “I live for a left that is about freedom, a sexual politics that is about choice.” It all sounds good, but what does it actually mean? Moore has shown before that she will not defend the principle of equality if she doesn’t approve of its sexual politics.

In October 2011, the Guardian published Moore’s opinion piece on the subject of equal marriage rights. It starts out with the proposition that “gay marriage, as proposed by David Cameron, is utterly conservative”. So far, so good. “Gay politics,” Moore reasons, “loses any radicalism if it has to spend all its time reassuring the heterosexual world we are all exactly the same.” No argument there. Then it all falls apart when Moore concludes, “I do not resent anyone’s ‘big day’, but any progressive would not waste time arguing the case for gay marriage. Quite the opposite.”

The catch in Moore’s logic is that she sees equal marriage as nothing more than a desire for conformity, and she talks about “homosexuals” in the same way that right-wing commentators do: as a single group with a common agenda. Not only is that culturally naïve, it’s an untenable generalization. Sexuality is not the same as club membership. What’s more, Cameron’s idea of marriage as a lifelong monogamy is not the only definition of marriage. And so instead of talking about equal rights, which is the real point, the “gay marriage” question, or so Moore’s argument goes, demonstrates the failure of a minority group to be sufficiently progressive.

This only works if the interpretation of marriage is a patriarchal 1950s one. And so Moore arranges the issue within this framework and pronounces it reactionary. Marriage, she thunders, is “an institution set up to protect property to protect rights that we choose to overlay with our need for sex, romance, passion and companionship”. That may be true for some, but she uses this argument as a stick to bash the idea of “gay marriage” whilst trying to remain progressive. After all, what happens to the gender binaries of marriage when two men or two women get married?

Moore brings her own discontents to the debate, and in the end she sounds like a disappointed aunt whose nephew, formerly the black sheep of her family, has renounced his radicalism and started to drink his coffee at Starbucks. The polemic only works if there is a monolithic definition of marriage. Moore is only interested in that view, and so sidesteps the question of equal rights and the sexual politics of choice. An alternative that would allow for elasticity and complexity does not come in to it.

That is the way with Burchill, Bindel and Moore: each one tends to write as if she is the Law, and equal rights are treated as a political selection box. I don’t see how this squabble is going to change that. Yet if this Twitter storm has revealed anything it’s that the three are out of tune with twenty-first century sexual politics. “Being openly anti-gay or racist is not acceptable in the public domain,” Moore once wrote in the Daily Mail. And neither is being anti-trans. You may disagree with individual people, but to lash out at an entire group on the back of that is equally unacceptable.

WTF?! Friday • Flaming Bushes at Exodus International

The folks at Exodus International have made it their mission to renounce gay and become ex-gay …  Yet this blooper video on their official Vimeo page suggests they doth protest too much, methinks.

Exodus International is one of those oddball ex-gay organisations who think that gay is bad, a “lifestyle choice”, and therefore something that must be actively turned away from. “Mobilizing the body of Christ to minister grace and truth to a world impacted by homosexuality,” is how they define their mission. Without irony. That’s certainly a tongue-twister, for a start.

I assumed it was run by a coven of uptight New Christian Right proselytisers – you know the type, always crying victim when talking about gay rights because it gets in the way of their victimising of others. Think the dread Linda Harvey. (Whisper her name!) Yet the videos that Exodus International turn out show a public face that is as flaming as a row of burning bushes.

I don’t want to come off as essentialist – you can have uncommonly camp straight man, after all, look at Bruce Forsyth – but these men are far gayer than most of the gay men I know. They clutch their imaginary pearls when they make a mistake and exclaim with a wild abandon. Sweet Jesus, Mary! They may not love their gay selves, but their gay selves clearly still love them.

It’s a disturbing thought, but is this the logical end of assimilation? Acceptance followed by integration = denial. I hope not. Let the people at Exodus International serve as a cautionary tale. And love your queer self.

Exodus Week-End Review Blooper Reel for 2012 from Exodus International on Vimeo.

Happy 4th Birthday to Polari

Fourth Anniversary, Polari Magazine

Polari turns 4 today. It’s about to turn yet another corner, writes the editor, and reinvent its mission to explore the LGBT subculture.

Polari turns 4 today. It’s been a year since we changed the format of the magazine and now we’re about to change the some of the things that it does so that we can better realise its aims and objectives.

The idea behind Polari has always been to explore and understand the LGBT subculture. That’s also about understanding LGBT history, and how that history informs the way we live now. The mainstream LGBT media is fairly ahistorical for the most of the time. I am not saying that it has to be concerned with heritage. But someone has to be.

I think it’s still true, even in the age of social media, that journalism is the first draft of history. No one is sure who said it first, but like all quotes that sound Smart Alec it’s attributed to Oscar Wilde. It’s highly improbable that Wilde was the first to say it, but he may have been the first to record it.

Anyway, since the invention of the internet this has changed, but not as much as you might think. There’s always a canon in history, and for the most part it’s the job of the academic to work out what the canon is. There are hundreds of people on the internet writing about the way we live now in a manner that the mainstream press isn’t. The problem is that unless someone records this, or makes sense of it, it can be lost. The British Library has started to wrestle with this problem, and it now archives websites of cultural importance. Polari was approached earlier this year and is in the process being archived.

Academics, too, are keeping track of LGBT subculture and history, but the problem is that not many people read academic books. Nor do they want to. And Queer Theory is all too often about taking a simple idea and making sure no-one outside of academia can understand it. The daily news websites move so fast in the rush to be first that there is little or no analysis in the stories, whereas the magazine has the time to take the long view. But when it comes to heritage you still you have academics on one side, and the cheerleaders for Kylie, Dr Who and naked torsos on the other.

The reason we started Polari was to address what there is, and what there can be, in between. That’s why we’ve always said that it’s about life, not lifestyles. It’s not a commercial magazine, but that doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t have a commercial appeal. We also wanted to create a platform for new writers and contributors so that its readers can also have an active role in how their heritage is understood and conserved.

We are proud to announce that in this coming year we’ll be taking that idea further. For the last 4 years, Polari has been run as a voluntary community project built from love and a lot of hard work. We are now a Community Interest Company. A C.I.C. lies somewherebetween a limited company and a charity but is designed to serve a specific community demographic.  This status will allow us to take the work we have begun online out into the real world. We will start running projects next year that are all about understanding and conserving LGBT heritage. It’s an exciting development in the life of Polari and that is what we will be focusing on in our 5th year.

I want to round off with a remarkable quote from Alvin Toffler, who defined something he called “future shock” to describe the experience of many in a technology-led world that is fast changing. And he came up with this idea in the late 1960s. He said, “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn”. It’s that process of redefinition that defines the internet age. What we have to do is to make sure that a sense of the past, and how that informs the present, is not lost in the process.

The Weekly Polari Publishing Schedule

Polari introduced a publishing schedule today, and we’re really excited about it. It’s an unusual move for a website, I know, but the reason for it is to make it clearer why we do what we do. The driving idea behind the magazine has always been to step back and take a careful look at the subjects it covers. The schedule reinforces that – we’re not reporting the news of the day, we’re exploring the subculture, from pop music & performance to community & politics. The word magazine is an Arabic term for storehouse. That’s what we are aiming toward.

The schedule is fairly straightforward, all that said. On Monday and Tuesday we will run feature articles and interviews. Wednesday is all about community, and this includes such subjects as the coming out stories of readers through to the featured blog of the week. Thursday is devoted to reviews of books, music, film and stage. Friday is now ‘WTF?! Friday’. As the week rolls on, it’s time to get lighter, and to have a laugh. For example, last week we road tested a new weekly column looking at the crazy search terms that have brought readers to the site. Often bizarre, sometimes disturbing, but always hilarious, this new column looks set to be a firm favourite.

That is what the new schedule is all about. And if you like a particular feature, or think there’s something missing, write and let us know. Polari’s storehouse serves a community which you can be a part of by adding your voice and ideas.


The Stonewall Riots and the Pride Legacy

In the early hours of June 28, 1969, the Stonewall Inn was raided by one detective, one deputy inspector, two patrolmen, and four plainclothes police officers from the Public Morals Section of New York City Police Department. Anyone without ID, or anyone cross-dressed, was arrested.

The Stonewall Inn opened in March 1967, and by June 1969 had become the most popular gay bar in Greenwich Village. At this time homosexuality was illegal in 49 of the 50 US states, and the police harassment of gay bars, as well as entrapment by the police, was on the rise in New York. A raid was not an unusual occurrence. What proved unusual was that, instead of dispersing, the crowd the police had pushed out of the bar congregated on the streets. Three drag queens, the bartender and the doorman were bundled into a police van. There were boos, catcalls, and cries to push the van over. And then when a woman who was being taken out to a second van put up a fight so did the crowd.

The police returned the following night, as did the crowds, and both in greater numbers. This was, in fact, the night that the poet Allen Ginsberg first visited the Stonewall Inn. To cries of “gay power”, and “Christopher Street belongs to the queens”, the crowds fought back. As the activist and academic Dennis Altman later wrote, it was the “Boston Tea Party of the gay movement”.

In his book Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution, David Carter concluded,

“the true legacy of the Stonewall riots is the ongoing struggle for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. While the fight is far from over, it is now a worldwide movement that has won many significant victories, most of them flowing from those six days in the summer of 1969 when gay people found the courage to stand up for themselves on the streets of Greenwich Village.”

The Stonewall Riots changed the state of play, and sent out a message that enough was enough, that it was time for the harassment to end. To mark the first anniversary of the event the following June, the first Pride marches were held in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

In 2012, the legacy of Pride is in disarray. The march in Kiev was cancelled after increased violence against LGBT people. This was no doubt a fallout from the laws to prohibit all positive representations of homosexuality now current in five Russian cities. In London, the World Pride on July 7 has turned into a fiasco. As of today there will be no floats, no official events in Soho, and the rally in Trafalgar Square has been cut back. It is no longer the biggest pride celebration in the world, as promised. One can only wonder at the serious mismanagement within the official committee that could lead to this announcement being made only nine days before the event itself.

The official PR line from Pride London is that “we are returning to the roots of the original Pride London rallies. The ‘parade’ as we know it will now be a procession.” Although this has a serious ring of desperation to it, it may also be a good thing. Pride should not be an advertising opportunity, and too many of the floats in the past have been corporate broadcasts and not community led. Pride should be about the people on the streets, the community, and above all the experience. That cannot be managed, or organized. And we should count ourselves lucky that we have a Pride march, and that it’s not the politics of the state that threaten it. It is 43 years to the day that the Stonewall Riots started, and perhaps this is something that we should remember and honour.

Fathers Do Not Need The Labels ‘Straight’ or ‘Gay’

I told a story in passing to my new doctor the other day about how I broke the website and how it took two long and arduous days to fix it. At the end he said, “Well, it’s a story to tell the grand kids, isn’t it?” My first thought was, “I guess that means it’s time to come out again”, and that I would have to say, “I’m gay, I don’t have children”. And then I realised that it wasn’t really, that the world had changed, that it would be conceivable to have grandchildren down the line.

It has been legal for same-sex couples to adopt in England and Wales since 2005 (and in Scotland since 2009). The issue is more complicated in the US, as there is no overarching federal law about same-sex adoption, and it varies from state to state. Full adoption rights are legal in the District of Columbia, New Jersey, New York, Indiana, Maine, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Oregon, Vermont, and Florida. In fact, full adoption rights have been legal in DC since 1995. It was estimated in 2007 there were 270,000 US children living with same-sex couples, 65,000 of whom were adopted. In Australia, a same-sex couple joint petition for adoption is only legal in the Capital Territory, Western Australia and New South Wales.

JC Penney Father's Day Ad

Of course, it’s not just about adoption rights. There is more than one way to be a gay dad. Or a dad, in fact, as there’s no real need to differentiate. Interestingly, JC Penney, again on the cutting edge of LGBT rights, ran a Father’s Day ad that showed real-life dads Todd Koch and Cooper Smith with their children, Claire and Mason. The ad reads, “First Pals: What makes Dad so cool? He’s the swim coach, tent maker, best friend, bike fixer and hug giver — all rolled into one. Or two.” There is no “gay dad” label. And it’s extremely cute, unless of course you are a little twisted and think there is something wrong with two gay men wanting to be fathers.

There is an array of fiction flying around when it comes to the issue of same-sex parents. Bristol Palin, single mother, thinks it’s wrong because a child needs a mother and a father. Thrice married Newt Gingrich thinks children need a stable home life, that marriage is sacred, and that same-sex couples can provide neither. Scottish bishops think it is “gravely wrong”, with Jim Devine, Bishop of Motherwell, adding that there is a “giant conspiracy” going on as the “homosexual lobby … create for themselves the image of a group of people under persecution”. There is no discernible logic at work here. It is the baying of sheep.

What really matters is that children have loving parents. And so it’s happy Father’s Day to all dads. Perhaps one day I’ll join you.

Proud to be …

What does it mean to be proud? What does it mean to be proud to be gay, straight, trans, bi … or even a Star Trek fan?

June is Pride month. It’s a time when the meaning of being proud is played out in events and marches around the world. And of course next month, 7th July 2012, is World Pride, which is hosted in London this year. It’s a time to be reminded how important it is to be proud. This is what the Proud2Be project, to which Stephen Fry recently added a video, is all about.

Matt and Jon Price, Proud2Be

Joolz Perry Photography

Proud2Be was founded in June 2011 by twin brothers Matt and Jon Price. This is what the brothers have to say about the project.

As gay children the overriding message we both received from our school and church, the media and society was that being gay was something to be ashamed of. After working for several years with children and young people, still the messages our lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) youth receive are not too dissimilar to the ones we heard as children. We believe if these messages are not questioned, the likely hood is our LGBT youth will grow up feeling ashamed about who they are.

If anyone were to ask why it’s important to be proud the answer is in here. There are to this day too many voices telling LGBT people they should be ashamed of who and what they are. And that sense of shame starts early. It informs the path to adulthood, and more often than not in a subconscious, negative way. All too often that voice simply does not go away.

There’s an idealism in the Proud2Be project. And it’s an endearing idealism. In a blog post, Matt asks, “Do you hide who you are? Are you embarrassed about what you do or who you love? We invite you to let go of your shame and be who you are, wherever you are, head held high, no apologies.” This is a message for adults as much as it a message for teens. As Stephen Fry says in his contribution, “I think part of life is learning what to be ashamed of and what to be proud of.”

So far the project has videos from Peter Tatchell, Nigel Evans (MP), London Gay Men’s Chorus, Brighton Gay Men’s Chorus, Michael Cashman (MEP), and the marvellous Fox from Channel 4’s My Transsexual Summer. If you would like to add your voice, click here to go the website. There’s an increasing number of voices out there telling people that it is wrong to be gay, bi, trans. The opposition to equal marriage has provided such people with a platform. In countries such as Russia and Liberia there is in fact a regressive trend, and laws are being reintroduced that strengthen the message of shame. It’s important to take a stand against this outmoded thinking.

Objections to Gay Days

20 years ago, the Disney World theme park in Florida played host to the first Gay Days, which this year runs from May 29 to June 4. It used to be One Day in the Magic Kingdom, but it has grown, and with its economic might this “gay and lesbian vacation experience”, as it has been dubbed, is set to attract 160,000 people.

At the start, Disney posted warning signs about the event so that unsuspecting families would be prepared. Now the signs are gone. There is nevertheless unease about the scope of Gay Days, both from the usual suspects, who complain about how it affects “the children“, as well as from LGBT groups. The ‘lifestyle’ aspect of the week, the parties, the drugs, the unrestrained exhibitionism – this a source of tangible discomfort for both sides.

The opposition, as you would expect, riots in paranoid stereotypes. David Caton of the Florida Family Association raised money to fly a plane over the park and drop leaflets that warn people the event is underway. He has said, like a character let loose from a streetcorner in a Sinclair Lewis novel, “The event is pretty much a celebration of their lifestyle, and they target Disney on the first Saturday of summer because that’s when they’ve known in the past that the most children are in the park.” Really? Incidentally, this how The New York Times‘ Samuel G. Freedman describes Caton: “An accountant turned rock-club owner, the author of a book about his pornography addiction, Mr. Caton had become a born-again Christian and the founder and sole employee of a fundamentalist activist group called the Florida Family Association.”

Warning that it's Gay Days at Disney

This is what Caton had to say about his shenanigans:

Last year Florida Family Association hired an aircraft company to pull a banner for ten hours the day before and ten hours the day of to warn families about this offensive event before they arrived at the park on Saturday. The airplane banner influenced mainstream family attendance at Disney during Gay Day to DROP between 50% to 60%. We believe this aircraft banner warning to families SPARED TENS OF THOUSANDS of children from the unexpected exposure to this coming out party. This airplane banner is the most cost effective manner to warn families before they:

• Expose their children to same-sex revelry.
• Spend hundreds of dollars on tickets.
• Pay for parking.
• Commit a day for fun now ruined.
• Purchase food and novelties.

It may be Straight Days for the other 358 days of the year, but the many contributors to the Florida Family Association’s campaign do not see it that way. And it typifies what much of the opposition has to say.

That said, Gay Days is in many ways like a week long Frat Party. There’s the ‘Daytime Bears Pool Party’, the ‘Caribbean Booty Party Girls Pool Party’, the ‘Liquid Pool Party’, the ‘Rogue Party Girls Pool Party’. It’s mostly about sex. The marketing for Gay Days features the usual sex-soaked, body-conscious imagery – namely topless, muscular men with overly white teeth. And this is what the LGBT groups are complaining about: that it’s little more than an extension of the scene, the pop-culture lifestyle that operates on the lowest common denominator. As one gay man argued on the Disney Information website, “I’m fed up with the world thinking that this is what being gay in America is all about – it’s not. I’m fed up that those of us with some sense of ourselves outside of circuit parties and body building are painted with this tawdry brush”.

Is this weeklong celebration really Gay Days, or it it Gay Scene Days? I don’t know the answer. If you do an image search for Gay Days it’s not a clear-cut division.