I went for a meeting in Victoria today which I was enjoying so much that I forgot to look at the time. As I left the venue, I realised I only had forty minutes to get up to Wood Green, so there was much running through the streets, and a great deal of apologising to the passers by I was systematically bumping into. I changed trains at Finsbury Park, and inadvertently stumbled into the path of a group of twelve year-old Romany lads, whose faces were bashed-up and deeply care-worn. They were making a right old racket. It actually made me feel incredibly sad.
The saddest part was that I instantly knew they were Romany, and not just that, I knew that they would be exiting the tube at Wood Green, and making their way up to the gypsy encampment at Barratt Gardens. They ticked every gypsy stereotype. They had Irish accents. One of them was wearing a rosary around his neck. They were out and about, roaming the streets at an insanely young age like a pack of wild dogs and seemed to have no regard for their fellow passengers. I'm afraid they also had personal hygiene issues and their clothes were incredibly dirty.
It's very difficult for me to write about this in an era where our country is falling apart over the issue of immigration, but I believe there is a responsibility for communities to fight to eradicate any behaviour which might lead to negative stereotyping. I feel the same way about English football fans. If we want the world to stop accusing us of being hooligans, we almost need to behave twice as well as everyone else, perpetually turning our cheeks when the other fans make us angry. It shouldn't need to be the case, but right now this world is full of people who want to pass rather sweeping judgements on their fellow men and will push and push until they see the behaviour which makes them say "you see, I told you so!"
I think one of the most important steps my community made in changing the perception the world had of us following the dark years of HIV/AIDS/Clause 28 was demonstrating that we came in all sorts of shapes, sizes and types. Gay men weren't just lisping, sex-obsessed clones who snorted poppers and went cruising on the Heath, they were men who wanted long-term monogamous relationships. Men who wanted to be fathers. Men who worked as doctors and philosophers and builders and soldiers. There were even gay men who didn't seem gay in the slightest! Shock horror! When the public realised they couldn't spot a gay man just by looking at him, they realised there was nothing to be frightened of. Curiously this had the effect that it became okay to be ANY sort of gay man from a screaming, mincing queen to the butchest "straight acting" hill farmer in Wales. And then gay men suddenly stopped using the term "straight acting." In the olden days you couldn't see a lonely hearts/Gaydar profile without the two letters "SA" jumping out. Being "straight acting" was a thing many of us aspired to as we came to terms with our community. Those days have well and truly gone!
This evening Llio, Nathan and I went to see a show directed by our good friend Jill in one of the buildings round the back of Mountview Drama School, which was, of course, my old stomping ground. It was a lovely piece for three male actors (one gay, one straight, one bi) based on a Portuguese blog post. The show was called My Boyfriend, Jesus Christ. It shouldn't have worked, but all three of us were very speedily won over. It had a good energy, a good heart, and some wonderful uses of film and music which transported me into another reality, I guess... Bravo Jill.
The day finished drinking lemonade sitting in the garden of the pub on the corner of Coburg Street, where I spent many an hour as a student at the drama school.