Thursday, October 20, 2005

Cruisin’ for a bruisin’

I guess I was. I should have known better. What was I doing sitting at my desk at 6:59 this morning?  When the ambush came I should have seen it coming, but it was all a blur, and then it was over.

It started the evening before – at about six – as I was halfway out the door. My mobile rang. It was a producer from LBC radio’s Nick Ferarri Breakfast show. Had I read Peter Tatchell’s article in the Evening Standard in defence of “cruising”?

No I hadn’t.

What were my views? Would I be prepared to defend Tatchell’s article? (Peter was out of town, so couldn’t go on himself.)

I said that I wouldn’t be the best person to do so because I had no strong feelings on the matter. I had never been cruising nor was I likely to. It seemed a bit unseemly, in my opinion, but on the other hand I believe that anything that goes on between consenting adults and causes no harm is fine by me – so I had no reason or desire to denounce cruising either, adding that no matter how wishy-washy my views on this subject were, I most emphatically held that people should be able to conduct their affairs in safety!

I then suggested a few people who might be better than I would. Alas, he’d tried most of them and they were either unreachable or unavailable. As I helpfully do in these circumstances, I ended with a “Well, if you absolutely can’t find anyone else, I guess you can call me back” and listed related issues that I did feel confident to talk about concerning gay-bashing.

An hour and a bit later, The LBC producer phones again. He’s had no luck, so would I mind doing it.

Okay then, but as I said, I don’t really have any strong feelings on the subject.

We spend 15 minutes doing a “briefing” on what I’m willing and able to talk about. I reiterate that I have neither knowledge or experience of cruising. I tell him that I’m happy to point out that it is not an exclusively gay activity, though it is almost always characterised as such – as if only gay men have outdoor sex. For example, so-called “dogging”. I point out that heterosexuals tend to give their outdoor sex areas romantic names like “lover’s lane”. They also have sex with strangers, as the “swinging” phenomenon proves. Gay men are simply scapegoated and a release valve for straight society’s own ‘shame’.

I mention that gays don’t need to go cruising to get bashed. David Morley, for example, a victim of a fatal gay-bashing a year ago was simply on his way home from a dance club. According to reports in The Guardian and The Independent, the figures are bleak. There are hundreds of gay-bashings every year and a fatal one roughly every two months.
I point out that one of the reasons a lot of gay-bashing might take place near cruising areas is that those who cruise are seen as soft-targets. Some are closeted – or even married – and others fear the associated stigma so these crimes are significantly under-reported, giving the attackers more confidence. Also there is the obvious factor of the dark and being out of sight. I add that many authority figures – like fundamentalist preachers and bah-humbug politicians – indulge in hate-filled denunciations of gays, as do hysterical tabloids, and this sends a signal to certain elements in society that gay-bashing is not frowned upon, or even tacitly approved of.

I tell him about how measures to tackle homophobic bullying in the schoolyard are not adequate, that the playground is the incubator for homophobia and gay-bashing and that the fact that the suspects in both the Jody Dobrowski and David Morley murders were teenagers bears this out.

And for a good 15 minutes we discuss issues that I’d be happy to talk about. “I’ve noted all this and I’ll brief Nick” he tells me at the end of our conversation.

So, I wake up just before 7 am and tune in via the web.

Then the phone rings and a minute or two later, we’re on air.

“A bit irresponsible of Peter Tatchell, isn’t it Brett?”

Oy vey! Here we go. I try to explain that there’s no point in encouraging a hysterical reaction of the scale of Jaws. Yes, every year a few people are attacked by sharks, but that doesn’t mean people should stop swimming and that Peter is probably right when he says that 99% of the time, cruising is a happy experience. I then point out that David Morley was murdered by gay-bashers nowhere near a cruising area.

“But surely the wise advice would be to say ‘don’t go cruising’ until the police find whoever is responsible, but Peter Tatchell has said that 99% of the time its sexy, pleasurable and exciting, so go out on do it. That’s irresponsible, Brett.”

Gee, what can I say. I’ve been ambushed. What can I do but soldier on, trying to make a case for something I explicitly said I didn’t want to do. But ho hum, it comes with the territory, I suppose.

While I’m angry that I was ambushed after making it explicitly clear that I was only going on because they were stuck for someone to talk about the issues and went through the charade of a “briefing”, I am most angry with myself. Nick Ferarri, I suppose, was only doing his job in having some controversial pot boiler on the stove for breakfast. I know the theory: Decide what you want to say and say it no matter what the questions. Of course that’s easier to remember after some coffee and toast. So, the lesson is, it is irresponsible to lurk around radio talkshow hosts before breakfast!

Nevertheless, the show sparked off an orgy of homophobia. Someone suggested inventing a “poofter-scooper” to clean up the parks. On the scatological theme, another person phoned in to say that what she objected to most was the piles of human shit (she meant this literally, if its any consolation) left behind by cruisers. Apparently, and she explained this very delicately, one has to evacuate one’s bowels before anal sex and men do it in her park.

Now I couldn’t believe this. This is not something I’d ever heard before so I signed on to OutEverywhere (a gay community discussion list) and asked if anyone had ever heard of this. Most said it was preposterous – surely anyone who went out cruising would go “prepared” and have made all the necessary arrangement before leaving the house, and before dabbing on some aftershave. Only one person said they’d heard of this, but that it very uncommon. Most of the crap in the park is left by people walking their dogs – and, no, not in the euphemistic sense.

So another urban legend is born. The steaming heaps in the park are the fault of the gays. More reason to bash gay people on the radio, and, sadly, more reason for some twisted minds to beat the shit out of gay people in the streets. Thanks luv.


At 3:55 pm, Blogger coffeelover said...

Good effort, though when Nick gets something controversial in his head, he'll go for it... just a shame he chose to, as you rightly say, scapegoat a community for rest of society's shame.

Was there any response to his show from Outrage etc?

At 4:29 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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