Saturday, 14 May 2011

Caitlin Moran: The First Gay Man On The Moon

"Last week I was compiling a quick-cut YouTube montage of humanity’s greatest moments – what can I say? The kids are 7 and 9 now; weekend activities have moved on from cupcakes and colouring in – and came across an awkward fact: there is no Gay Moon Landing.
"There are single, iconic images for every other blockbuster moment in humanity’s progress: the civil rights movement has Martin Luther King, giving his speech. The suffragette movement has Emily Wilding Davison, trampled by the King’s horse. The triumphs of medical science: the mouse with the ear on its back. And the space race has, of course, the moon landing – Neil Armstrong making the most expensive footprint in history.
"But there is no single, iconic news image for gay rights. There’s no five-second clip you can put in that marks a moment where things started getting better for the LGBT guys. The Stonewall riots in 1969 are an obvious turning point, of course – but footage of it needs captions to explain what’s going on. Otherwise, it just looks like a lot of late-Sixties men of above-average grooming experiencing a very unwelcome fire evacuation from a disco, while a load of policemen hit them. Anyone who went clubbing in the rougher parts of the Midlands, or Essex, at the time will have seen scenes almost identical. It’s not particularly gay..."

Caitlin Moran in The Times. Continues below...

1 comment:

  1. Perturbed by this lack of relevant news footage, I went on Twitter and asked what people would regard as a putative Gay Moon Landing. There were dozens and dozens of replies: David Bowie and Mick Ronson’s homoerotic sparring on Top of the Pops, John Hurt as Quentin Crisp in The Naked Civil Servant – dumb with lipstick, blind with mascara and brave as a lion. Seminal teenage fumbling/nascent emancipation in My Beautiful Laundrette and Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit. Cindy Crawford – straight – acting all geisha, and slathering a beaming kd lang in shaving foam on the cover of Vanity Fair.

    All of these instances crashed into people’s front rooms and started things: conversations; realisations about sexuality; imagining, for the first time, a possible future. In that way – millions of lights sparking up in millions of minds – they were news events; albeit ones that never actually made it on to the news.

    Because what was notable was that nearly every single instance of a Gay Moon Landing suggested was from pop, TV, magazines or film. The history of gay rights, and gay progress, has included keynote speeches, legislation, protest and rioting – but the majority of its watershed moments have taken place in the arts world. It was good to be gay on Top of the Pops years before it was good to be gay in Parliament, or gay in the Church, or gay on the rugby pitch. And it’s not just gay progress that happens in this way: 24 had a black president before America did. Jane Eyre was a feminist before Germaine Greer was born. The film A Trip to the Moon landed humans there in 1902.

    This is why recent debates about the importance of the arts contain, at core, an unhappy error of judgment. In both the arts cuts – 29 per cent of Arts Council England’s funding has now gone – and the presumption that the new, “slimmed-down” national curriculum will “squeeze out” art, drama and music, there lies a subconscious belief that the arts are some kind of… social luxury: the national equivalent of buying some spendy scatter cushions and a big candle from John Lewis. Policing and defence, of course, remain very much “essentials” – the fridge and duvets in our country’s putative semi.

    But art – painting, poetry, film, TV, music, books, magazines – is a world that runs constant and parallel to ours, where we imagine different futures, millions of them, and try them out for size. Fantasy characters – Beth and Margaret in Brookside, say – can kiss, and we, as a nation, can all work out how we feel about it, without having to involve real shy teenage lesbians in awful jumpers, to the benefit of everyone’s notion of civility.

    Two of the Gay Moon Landings Twitter suggested were C4’s Queer As Folk, from 1999, and Captain Jack kissing the Doctor in Doctor Who in 2005 – both written by Russell T. Davies. Queer As Folk was cited as a Gay Moon Landing because, when it aired, it was the first ever gay-only drama and caused absolute, gleeful outrage. Conversely, the Doctor Who gay kiss was a Gay Moon Landing because it caused absolutely no outrage at all. The two were separated by just six years. I would definitely call that another big step for mankind.

    But then, perhaps I’m barking up the wrong tree here. Maybe I don’t need to look for a Gay Moon Landing, after all. As someone on Twitter pointed out, “The moon landing itself is pretty gay. A close-knit group of guys land in a silver rocket, make a really dramatic speech and then spend half an hour jumping up and down? Please.”