Gay Times October 08 - Issue 361
Our favourite performance artist is a fountain of knowledge when it comes to ways in which our queer lives can be improved upon
How can we improve our lives? I’ve been sitting here in sub-tropical Rusholme wondering if there’s anything in my experience that could possibly illuminate the road for others and – as I was having a few problems coming up with the goods – I rang my old pal and sparring partner Joan Dairy Queen for a bit of advice. Now, Joan is full of useful information. Did you know, for instance, that the heat from your index finger is sufficient to curl your eyelashes? Why wasn’t I taught this in school? I went through 12 years of the education system without once learning this vital fact, which makes me think the whole thing was a waste of time. Now I’m doing it constantly and my eyelashes are a bit threadbare as a result.
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Joan also mentioned that if you’re planning a night of binge-drinking, it’s a good idea to line the stomach with a tub of ice cream. It’s easy to digest and doesn’t require chewing, a practice I find irksome at the best of times. Having put this to the test I can say that not only does it work, but it’s a lot easier to bring back up than most other foodstuffs. Joan also has some useful tips for day-to-night wear, which means that you really never need to go home. Always keep a cravat at the ready: It makes you look elegant, and if you have the misfortune to break your arm, you can use it as a sling. It comes in handy as a tourniquet if you’re stabbed during a night out, or of course if you’re an intravenous drug user.
All these things are useful and important, but if you want to improve your life in a way that lasts more than one night, my main tip is this: get rid of guilt and shame. This is easier said than done, and I’ve only been able to do it after extensive counselling, but if there’s one thing that really helps us to live happy lives as gay people it’s the realisation that guilt and shame are imposed by other people, they’re not part of you, and you can throw them off like a shroud. I went to Ireland recently and the place reeked of suppressed homosexuality. I’ve never been in a place so overwhelmed with guilt and shame. It’s completely unnecessary. These people are creating their own Calvary.
When I was at school, my situation as a homosexual was never acknowledged (which was very confusing), and as a result I felt that I was completely invisible. In fact, I was so ashamed of what I was that I wanted to become invisible, because I started to believe I’d taint anyone who looked at me. I felt I shouldn’t be there, that “they” were right and I was somehow wrong. This feeling stayed with me for a long time, certainly through my young adulthood when I was performing as the Divine David; I had more monkeys on my back than Chessington Zoo. Finally I had a breakdown and spent eight months in counselling. I know it’s anathema to some people, but it worked for me. I think that resource should be available to young queer people. In fact, to be honest, I think most of them should be taken out of the education system and sent to a stately home in the country where they can draw pictures and do contemporary dance. They don’t need education. If you can read, you can educate yourself.
I realise now that guilt and shame can become quite a fetish. They’re terribly addictive. And there are some advantages: if you use all that nervous energy in feeling bad about yourself, you stay very slim. The more tortured you are, the better. Now that I’ve got rid of my demons, I compensate for the associated weight gain by barely eating.
So my message this month is simple. Stop feeling guilt and shame, stop looking for approval, stop putting people on pedestals. Go with your instincts. Queer people are beautiful forces of nature. We’re a wonderful fly in the ointment of society. All beauty, joy and humour comes from us. Our job is to lead straight society into the future. We’re the border collies – they’re the sheep. I’m not suggesting that they should all necessarily be slaughtered, but there are certainly a few that make me think how much I’d like an astrakhan collar.
Words: David Hoyle