Keep Britain Bona – let’s troll together towards our fantabulosa futurette

Keep Britain Bona!

Keep Britain Bona!

I voted, very early this morning. Going in, I met a lady from my yoga class coming out, though didn’t dare tell her how much I was aching from the hour and a half class that had stretched and stretch for two hours. I’m the only bloke, so I feel I have to be butch. And try to contain my trumps, which is much more difficult.

We has a fair stream of people coming and going, which is encouraging to see. Our voting site is an outbuilding from the local school. It’s where the students are counselled, and so it’s great to see there are positive messages everywhere about self-esteem, and sharing, and caring. It’s a nice place to be. Last time I voted, there were a lot of posters and leaflets being affirmative about LGBT identity, how important it is to value yourself and others. Other friends have told me about how they’ve had UKIP supporters threatening to stab people outside their Voting Station. I wasn’t surprised.

After voting, some bloke turned up to  drive my car off for its MOT, as I’m not allowed in the driving seat anymore. There’s an analogy there somewhere.

I get a kick out of voting. I recall going to vote not long after Nelson Mandela had ben released, and stopping to think how important the whole thing really is. Tomorrow is VE Day. I’m not on celebrating war, but I know far too many people were killed, and that my ancestors have made huge sacrifices just so I can turn up and use a stubby little pencil to put a cross in a box.

I know that voting isn’t the end of it all. I’ve been an activist, I’ve been on protests and marches and parades, and I’ve campaigned. Occasionally I’ve taken (peaceful) direct action. Once upon a time I handed myself in tot he police for being a ‘Sex Criminal’ when the Age Of Consent in the UK was discriminating against queer sexuality. I may or may not have been dressed as a nun at the time. And I wrote about my experiences during the Poll Tax ‘Riot’ in a previous blog here.

I’m not ‘tribal’ in my politics, but have a lefty bent. I admire those of my friends who have been grafting hard on behalf of professional politicians who really don’t deserve half the support they’ve been given. This year, so much has been stage managed, to the point where politicians feel it’s perfectly OK to just not engage in television debates or with real members of the public anymore.  My hero of this election is the ‘hyacinth heckler’ who accused PM David Cameron of racism for the way he and his party have depicted the Scottish National Party. How great to hear a real voice amidst the din of commentary, fawning, political pandering, obfuscation  and downright lies. I’ve mostly been a ‘hacktivist’, tweeting and posting any old stuff that seemed to me to reflect some of my agenda. It’s all second hand, and so I take the time to thank and acknowledge those who have worked really hard to engage people like me in the political process, to persuade and argue and cajole, to stand on doorsteps and street corners and challenge, and debate, and get sworn or laughed at. And those who sit for hours staffing the election booths – when I spoke tot he two people at my election office this morning, they told they’d sworn’ Never again’. I thanked them for never saying never. Because, without them …

Having said that, locally we also have a little local ‘colour’ this year. Which is a polite way of saying the extreme right wing, in its various historical guises of BNP and EDL, have been out peddling their usual xenophobic nonsense. It comes in shades, from dilute forms of UKIP through to a new manifestation in ‘The MAINSTREAM Party’, who proudly proclaim ‘We don’t do Minorities’. Their election slogan is ‘Britain and Europe back to Normal. NOW.’ I don’t even understand what that means. I won’t bore you with the details of their ‘manifesto’, but it appears they’re not as keen on The Gays as our local voting booth is. There’s quite a lot of tutting and repressed anger involved. But if you want to know more,  the Mainstream Candidate has given his contact details – 07931 084762, or e-mail info@mainstream.org.uk.

I didn’t vote Mainstream. And although today we’re being urged to vote for the ‘less bad’ option, I truly voted idealistically and with my heart. That’s as strategic as I get.

Yes, of course I voted to Keep Britain Bona. In a way, every vote does that. Buck the trend and get involved. Have your say – vote, but don’t leave it there. Bang a drum, shout a chant, sign a petition, hacktivate. Challenge, hope, change.

Say No to Normal.

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A Smalltown Boy in the Big Society

outrage

I’ve started volunteering for a local LGBT charity. It’s a long time since I was an active volunteer, and it’s difficult volunteering now without thinking about Cameron’s awful ‘Big Society’  concept.

I’ve actually ‘volunteered’ for most of my adult life in one way or another. And in a week when London Lesbian & Gay Switchboard is celebrating its 40th year with congratulations from The Queen (no, actually HER, not just one of us sitting in a bar saying ‘well done’) – the first time that she’s been seen to back an LGBT organisation in her 62 long years as a monarch – I’m wondering about the impact of volunteering on LGBT communities.

It used to be seen as part of ‘community building’. With so few commercial gay organisations around, it was expected that an out gay man or woman would be spending their time ‘supporting’ their community ‘in solidarity.’ Perhaps this is a true meaning of ‘big society’. Defending smaller societies in the big outside world. I started doing LGBT volunteering on a helpline in Aberystwyth after coming out myself. It was a small, isolated community, and it was the start of the AIDS crisis and the right-wing backlash against the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality. It seemed obvious that I should donate time and energy because it was also obvious what I would be getting out of it – an identity, a sense of community and pride, as well as making new friends/lovers. It would have seemed selfish and churlish not to.

My relationship with volunteering has changed over the years. At one point, I worked for a charity and was paid to support volunteers doing their (unpaid) work. If there was a value to the work I was doing, why not theirs? It’s an argument dominating the two areas I now work in – writing and counselling. Why should counsellors or writers be expected to work without payment? For many, it’s a way to network, gain experience and enter ‘the profession.’ Which is true to a point – until people/organisations stop respecting the field because ‘they can get a volunteer’ to do it.

At an interview for my volunteering post I was asked what I wanted to get from it. I think that’s an important question to ask. Volunteering isn’t simply a selfless task. It involves time, money, effort. And people have many conscious/subconscious reasons for volunteering – some of them warm and giving, some of them coming from a more selfish/self centred place. All of which is fine, as long as they can be recognised. I never trusted a volunteer who told me they wanted to volunteer because they ‘wanted to help people’. It always seemed vague and self-deluding. Help people? How/why? Do they even want your help?

Voluntary organisations in the ‘Big Society’ age struggle with funding, especially if it’s LGBT now Everything Is OK. It’s  not, even if things are undoubtedly better, at least in Britain. My Facebook page is littered with stories of celebrities ‘coming out’ after suicide attempts, or outrage at a gay kiss on Coronation Street. Social media is full of global campaigns highlighting homophobia. A poster boy for Stonewall’s Marriage Equality campaign has declared Gay Saunas and bathhouses should be closed because  – well, his reasons vary from giving us a bad image to spreading AIDS and STIs. It’s all a bit grubby, apparently. In essence, it’s the mistaken belief that Everything Is Alright Now. It smacks a little of unremembering, or just pissing on, a history of defiance, activism and support. What happened to ‘community’ and ‘belonging’?

During my volunteer training, sitting quietly at the end of a bookshelf, was a book I’d written many years ago on the history of the ‘homosexual terrorist’ group OutRage. It seemed like it was winking at me throughout the evening, reminding me both of who I’ve been and why I was there.  A friend this week saw a video of me demonstrating at a ‘Kiss In’ in Trafalgar Square in 1991. It was at the BFI, so I now feel I’m some kind of archive material, along with outdated ideas like activism, gay community – and volunteering. If only homophobia was so firmly stuck away in the past.

So the idea of volunteering might be a bit old-hat. Except it all changes when you get that first call or meet that person coming out for the very first time. When the world seems new and different and frightening and exciting. And you need a little hand along the way to face  the Big Society.

Polari – A Cinderella Among Languages

Don’t be strange – troll in and have a varda at my new insertion on the gay slang language of polari:  Polari – A Cinderella Among Languages. There’s a bit of bespangled history and a glossary to amaze your dearest beancoves with. It’s  been kept vigorously alive by omipalones such as Queen of the Polari Bette Bourne, and was made (in)famous by the two camp BBC Radio stalwarts of Round The Horne, Julian and Sandy.

 

In the meantime, let me serenade you with a bona polari busker‘s song. You can join in if you like:

 

Nantee dinarlee: The omee of the carsey
Says due bionc peroney, manjaree on the cross
We’ll have to scarper the jetty in the morning,
Before the bonee omee of the carsey shakes his doss
.
– Polari busker’s song

 

It loses a little in translation, but is basically an entreaty to push off pretty quickly because the landlord’s after the rent and we don’t have any money … and by rent I mean money for lodgings and not the gay slang for … well, you see, this is where it gets complicated. Nish the chat and varda the colour of his eyes ….