Monday, 30 July 2007

It hit the spot and he let himself be drawn in

Matthew Parris is a former Conservative MP in the UK who now writes frequent columns for the London Times. And he's gay.

He usually writes on UK politics, and I drink his every word. I'm a sucker for Westminster: it has all the characters, the drama and above all the wit that our staid line-up of party hacks mumbling from notes seems to lack. So I'm a regular reader. But sometimes Mathew Parris touches on gay issues and then I'm even more interested. He must have so much to tell, being a gay MP in the Conservative Party during the Thatcher years.

Today's column - or part of a diary really - hit the spot though. This is not a nostalgic talking, but a man firmly rooted in the present and truly believing in a better future.

Finally, I’ve decided to take the plunge. I’m coming out . . .
Matthew Parris: My Week

Today, a big decision on my sexuality. And in this column the announcement. Something I’ve been wrestling with for months but can see at last that I’m just going to have to come to terms with. So take a deep breath . . . and here goes.

I’m coming out as a post-homosexualist. Forty years (tomorrow) after the 1967 law ending the absolute prohibition of homosexuality, 13 years after the reduction of the age of consent from 21 to 18, six years after the further reduction from 18 to 16, and two years after the arrival of civil partnerships, I have finally become bored with the whole damn thing. Bored, not with being gay, but with talking about it. I blame Tony Blair.

Do cats witter endlessly on about being cats? Do redheads drive us to distraction with their thoughts on being ginger? How many serious comment columns in the editorial pages of newspapers are devoted to the musings of straight men on what it is to be a heterosexual? No, they just get on with it – with being cats, redheads or straights. Such things are for the lifestyle sections of weekend magazines, not rubbing shoulders with the debate on global warming, housing or the terrorist threat.

Fellow-queers: stop moaning. How interesting is any of this to the rest of the world any more? Other groups out there have it worse than we do in Britain. We’ve got the political changes we asked for. Social change will take longer but it’s happening, steadily. Kidding ourselves that we inhabit some sort of a gulag is making it harder, not easier, for the next generation to relax about their sexuality. Let’s remind them that in the whole history of mankind there has been no better, luckier, time or place to be gay than Britain in 2007.

Our main persecutors now are religions – the “faith community”: Islam, Catholicism, Anglicanism, evangelicals, Judaism, Hinduism – but most of our fellow Britons don’t seriously subscribe to any of these superstitions, so why take it out on them? The brave thing now is to take the battle into the cathedrals, temples, synagogues and Rastafarian dives, not the opinion pages of The Guardian.

To the mosques, homosexualists! Post-homosexualists – to the opera!

Full text here

I agree with most of this. I'm sure there are still parts of Britain where it's not good to be gay in 2007 - and I'm not thinking of rural Kent or something. I'm thinking of London's and Leeds's worst suburbs - poor, largely consisting of migrants and - I suspect - infested with intolerance and ancient forms of social control. I myself live in such a suburb, and would definitely not behave conspicuously in my own street. My heart goes out to all those who have such a background to deal with, the muslim gays in particular.

But the main point is correct: social change is progressing steadily, also in the States, as The Economist's Lexington column pointed out a few weeks ago. In my own country, apart from shoddy neighbourhoods I'm more concerned with stereotyping than repression. Religions, in combination with fear of the unknown, are the last great bastions of this. The unknown can be combated. Religion is a much, much tougher nut to crack. But catholicism shows people are willing to ignore priests when they are talking bollocks.

I would like to add one more observation: this coming out business. Is this some new kind of post-modern convention? Do people do it in order to satisfy others and gain peace of mind and security in return? Is it what you're supposed to do as a queer person in the West? Why should you? The straight don't have to explain their heterosexuality. Why should we?

I think it's because as individuals we're too scared to go for the genuinely emancipated way: "mom, dad, meet my boyfriend X". We don't want to offend, to shock, we want to appease, really. Break the news gently to make acceptance easier. It means we still have a long way to go. I'm interested in this topic, so I hope to expand on this later on.

Above all, I need to find my own method, one that suits me. Emancipated, without melodrama. But nor do I want to offend. Except one or two people maybe.

I have dreams of showing up on their doorstep with the most effeminate twink I can find. In my dreams, I like to be provocative.

Canal Pride is coming up and I think I will have to talk about last year's fracas, centered around one brave boy and a wimp of a mayor.

Sunday, 29 July 2007


They're pathetic really, seem to be mostly made for females, but I love them: the Blogthings quizzes. You find out stuff about yourself that you'd never know otherwise. Take this one:

You Are a Smart American

You know a lot about US history, and you're opinions are probably well informed.

Congratulations on bucking stereotypes. Now go show some foreigners how smart Americans can be.

Thanks for the compliment, but I'm just a snarky Dutchman hedging his bets and willing to consider the US of A as a possible future domicile.

This one I like even more:

You are 87% Scorpio

Yes! Scorpio pride! At least I don't have to be ashamed of my astrological sign. And it's all true. Blogthings never lie.

And another one I just couldn't resist:

You Are 56% Republican

You aren't a full fledged Republican yet, but it's probably the party that fits you best.

You probably consider yourself an independent Republican. You usually support the party, but you also think for yourself!

I must be the only one on this side of the pond. Member of a club of one, but at least I'm special. The comment about "thinking for yourself" will save my skin if I ever have to face the Republican-hating lynch mob called "Continental Europe". A pity really, a stain om my hitherto solid right-wing credentials. Then again, I support legal cocaine on "fight for your right to party" grounds, so I might not hit it off with Ann Coulter.

And to go ahead with this crazy sexual experimentation thing:

You Are Bold And Brave

But daring? Not usually?

You tend to like to make calculated risks.

So while you may not be base jumping any time soon...

You are up for whatever's new and (a little) exciting!

I really surprise myself sometimes. I might not need to rely on bottled Scottish courage to go ahead after all. ;)

Saturday, 28 July 2007


I was planning to do a post on coming-out nuance anyway, but Closet-NS kind of beat me to it.

The old labeling issue comes up time and again for us deviants (not a pejorative). Society seems to demand it. In the acceptance stages of our own development process we brood on it, break our minds over it and try to learn to deal with it. What are we? We're not 100% straight, that we know we for sure, even though we might not be ready to admit it. We are attracted to men, but also to women to some variable degree.

We know about bisexuality, but that term seems to infer some sort of balance in sexual preferences. There's pansexuality, which implies indifference to sex and attraction to personalities and individuals. Interesting, but not applicable to my case. I wish it was, though. It looks hugely futuristic and exciting.

The truth is that I'm probably about 65% gay, 35% attracted to women. Technically, we could call this queer but it doesn't quite fit the colloquialism. The word "queer" just doesn't convey nuance. And how do you honestly calculate such percentages?

Now I'm quite happy with this state of affairs really. I understand my own situation after years of doubt and thinking. But how do you explain this to friends, family, casual bystanders?

You don't want to get into facts or figures, percentages or the Kinsey scale. Society likes to put its members into carefully defined categories. I might not, but it's a fact of life and empathy and good manners seem to demand that I conform.

Society over the years has come to develop ways to deal with homosexuality. Manners and political correctness demand it and humanity has found a way to deal with it (at least in most of Europe and North America). People express indifference to a friend's sexual preference during coming-outs, to the relief of the speaker. That's etiquette, and it's a good thing, but it's often an act.

Society is less ready to deal with scales of sexuality. There's no scripted pattern to deal with those stories yet. Yet I and many like me fall into this category. We want to keep it short and simple, because after all it's private information we don't always want to share with everyone around.

So each of us individually ends up settling for a phrase, a term, a short explanation that will cover the current and expected future situations accurately enough. I've decided to settle for bisexuality even though it doesn't feel entirely correct.

In the end, I like men and women, and this allows me to come home with a girl even though I'm predominantly gay. Others have settled for different terms. That's fine, but wouldn't it be better to find some sort of common ground? Homosexual emancipation has benefited us, but it has also left us with a much too simple boolean choice between two groups that are not exact complements. Maybe we can only win one sexual battle at a time, but the case of the %-sexuals surely needs to be represented.

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

My #1 Crush

Time for a more light-hearted post, I think. Yes, football. No, I don't like to use the word soccer.

I have been a pretty serious fan of Ajax Amsterdam since the wonderfully offensive game of 1995 and the success in the Champions League that year. The mists of Vienna, the young, innocent and still unspoiled Patrick Kluivert scoring 1-0 late in the match to beat Italian giants AC Milan and take the cup home. For a fan, life couldn't get any better.

Now I happen to be a third-generation fan. The probably even better Ajax of the early seventies with the undisputed star Johan Cruyff got my father and grandfather all hooked, for life. It was a team grown men still get all misty-eyed over. Three successive European cups with superior football is by any means pretty damn impressive.

Unfortunately, the high of 1995 has since receded. True, we made the final again in 1996, but lost in a penalty shoot-out to Juventus Turin, a club that appears to lack soul because they never seem to be capable of filling their stadium. It's been pretty much downhill since, with the team struggling to even make much of a mark nationally in the Dutch league, even though there is only one serious competitor, PSV Eindhoven, a club for.... I won't start a rant about their supporters. Nor their no-risk=no-fun style of playing.

Ajax's game is now less sure-footed and attractive, and Louis van Gaal, legendary but prickly coach during the last big era, now seems intent on outclassing Ajax with his new team, small but rich and well-run AZ Alkmaar. Anyway, PSV has won six of the last eight titles, Ajax has won two, and AZ looks sure to become a serious competitor over the next couple of years. It's owned by a banker who has a reputation of calmly soldiering on for years through grim times but getting what he wants in the end. And he really wants the title.

Which brings me to this year's disaster, also known as Tragic Sunday. On the second last weekend, AZ manages to overtake PSV and Ajax to jump to the top of the league. All it needs to do is beat lowly Excelsior Rotterdam in an away match. Anything other than a big win seems inconceivable. Holland is gearing up for a mighty upset, Alkmaar for a party and the second title ever. Ajax is in second place, needs to beat Willem 2 Tilburg and hope for an unlikely upset in Rotterdam to take the title. PSV is just behind Ajax, needs to beat Vitesse Arnhem with big numbers and hope for the others to fail. The defending champions are hanging in the ropes and look ready for a knock-out blow. I'm loving it, prepared to do a lot to take the title from PSV and even more to bring it to Amsterdam.

You can probably guess by now what happened: AZ lost, Ajax beat Willem 2 2-0 but PSV decided to rise to the challenge and win 5-1. PSV's was level with Ajax but had scored one more goal during the entire campaign of 34 matches. It kept the title.

As usual with humiliation, there were suddenly plenty of people around to rub in it. I was planning to go to a party in Eindhoven that night. I braced myself for some merciless teasing and hit the bar.

To brighten up this rather bitter ending, a picture of my favourite player of the current team, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.

Isn't football fun to watch? ;)

Saturday, 21 July 2007

So where do I stand?

I'm not sure. Actually, I think I know, but I can't summarize it in one word. Kind of annoying, but also kind of exciting.

I'm picky about women. I don't feel much attraction towards most girls my age. It has to do with style, security, experience I guess. I always tended to have slightly older girlfriends. Truth be told, I wasn't really very interested unless they were completely wacky or extrovert personalities. That type really drew me in, being around such women was like being on a very wild ride. I liked that, still do. Relationships with hot girls with little to say tended to peter out quickly, leaving me relieved at the break-up.

I also like boys (20+, of course). I guess I always did, was born that way. I've been aware of vague feelings of attraction since early adolescence, maybe even earlier. I ignored it, suppressed it, paid no attention to it. That wasn't even rational: I just did not think about it. Boys chase girls, that's the way society tells you it is, and I did. Normal people don't deviate from that. And I was normal, wasn't I?

I may be from Holland but our society doesn't handle eccentrics and deviants very well. It's part of what got Pim Fortuyn and Theo van Gogh killed, for example. I will probably do a post on that later on; somehow this distorted intolerance troubles me.

So after my years of trouble and in my mid twenties there's an itch and this time I'm planning to scratch it. This blog will be my diary and my confessional, even though I am, in Oriana Fellaci's footsteps, a Christian atheist. I do religion but I don't do God. I will get to that another day.

One of the main issues I'm dealing with is the boxes I'm supposed to be ticking. How do I honestly explain where I'm at, in terms of sexuality? I'm definitely not straight and somehow, admitting it comes as a relief. I don't think I want to be straight, really. Whether I'm truly bi or gay I am intending to find out.

Friday, 20 July 2007

So here I am

My first post ever. Well, not ever, but for this blog, the first one with the goal of getting really up close & personal. Which is new for me, I usually keep my feelings covert.

On the face of things, life looks great. After a two year hiatus, I have returned to uni to complete a Master's degree. I have a good part-time job and I am probably well liked and possibly even admired at the office. I have good friends, like the town I live in and even though I am not very materialistic, I am not missing anything on that front. Yet something is missing, and that's a good relationship, hot sex and all that.

In the past I was too busy to really investigate that side of me. I had personal issues, college and later financial trouble to keep me occupied. I immersed myself in drugs for a while, drank like a fish later on. Worked nights, slept days. The girls I met usually bored me. I won't depress you with the details, but that side of life has now been sorted out. Quit the drugs, cut down on the booze, got my finances sorted out. I can start focusing on the luxuries of life.

Now it's time for me to fill that obvious big, gaping hole in my life, and I intend to report on it right here.