So I managed to fool someone, via photographs from 1982, into thinking I’m handsome and desirable and that they should spend the better part of a sultry night caressing my eyebrows,
following my treasure trail—currently overgrown and littered with cigarette butts and empty Coke cans—and exclaiming with delight, either real or feigned, I’m not fussy, when they reach the pot of baby-batter at the end of that slightly frayed-around-the-edges homosexual rainbow.
Whoever is making those gagging noises: I didn’t say you had to visualize it. Jeezus. Have a little empathy, or, failing that, a Manhattan cocktail garnished with one of those Bing cherries you preserved in Marsala, using a canning method regarded as dangerous by the USDA.
Which you were going to do anyway, weren’t you, cupcake?
And while we’re taking a detour: The word “homosexual.”
Does not the word “homosexual” come conveniently packaged with its own dispenser of hand sanitizer, a pair of tweezers, and pristine surgical gloves that haters pretending not to be haters can slip on as they roll those five plummy yet sibilant syllables around their mouth like something they ate on a dare and are just waiting to spew out again?
“Hommo-sssex-zual” if you’re British.
“Homosexual” was the ersatz medical word invented because “invert” was sounding a tad Krafft-Ebbing, or was it Kraft Cheese Slices, I always get them mixed up; and just coming out and saying “nancy-boy” or “fudge-packer” didn’t have that Harvard Med School cachet, though they got the point across. “Homosexual” wasn’t a description: it was a diagnosis.
I’m thinking about this word partly because of a gripping and unsettling documentary on the celebrated and still polarizing British painter Francis Bacon that’s available on YouTube: “A Brush with Violence.”
This stellar doc consists entirely of reminiscences of friends and colleagues, whose patchwork of stories gradually coalesces to illuminate the ghastly and terrifying work of this prime practitioner of art as pathology.
And as part of the experience, we are treated right off the bat, and then some, to the analyses and observations of an American art critic, Annalyn Swan, who sports hair pulled back into a bun designed by a consortium of librarians, and a voice like your bratty cousin on your mother’s side who sticks her hand way way up when the teacher asks a question and rats you out if you copied someone else’s homework.
The redoubtable Ms Swan proceeds to play mouth billiards with the word “homosexual,” blushing slightly and almost barely breaking into a nervous smile each time she explains how Francis used to get it on with the stable boys, and how, as an asthmatic, he was unable to take part in manly, hetero-building pastimes.
Well, you know what? She’s so utterly, utterly annoying and indefensible, that, I must confess, it was all I could do to stop myself looking her up in Who’s Who, putting on my best pair of black winkle-picker boots, then flying down to whatever part of Connecticut she haunts, walking right up to her, then picking her winkle. Right then and there, on the spot.
No one says “homosexual” anymore, and anyone who does is just using it to stir up the unconscious idea that being gay is a pathology. It is, and was invented as, a pseudo-medical term straight from the DSM prior to the 1970’s.
It’s official: Being gay is neither pathological or cause for pity, except when bigots make it that way for us. Bacon’s severe, cold (even by British standards) snobby upbringing, his clueless stiff upper lip father who rejected him, and the grimly repressed post-war society at the time all conspired to force his desires underground and fill him with a self-loathing and internalized homophobia so extreme he was incapable of intimacy with a loving partner.
His eventual callous rejection of his “bit of rough,” working-class lover-lad and Kray Brothers hanger-on George Dyer, drove Dyer to suicide—and imagine believing that the only way to get Bacon’s attention was to kill himself on the occasion of Bacon’s greatest triumph, at a major retrospective in Paris; imagine the bitterness that caused him to attempt to sabotage that triumph.
(Appallingly, Bacon and his circle of friends and assistants present in Paris all conspired to hide the fact of Dyer’s death, deliberately and almost certainly criminally failing to report his suicide until the glitzy reception was over.)
“Homosexual.” Even saying the word was unthinkable. Imagine a sense of self-worth so degraded that Bacon needed to arrange his own gay-bashings with psychotic sadists. His work is unparalleled in its grim horror, and his triumph of determination over both lack of training and circumstance quite breathtaking, but was it necessary?
I wonder what work he might have achieved had he not had to spend his life loathing himself and arranging for others to hate him when he wanted a night off. I found myself once again stunned by the work and sad beyond description, sad that a sensitive gay man, born to frigid, remote parents and at a time which offered only the extreme tool of sadomasochism with which to act out his confusion, had to sacrifice his life and mental health to produce these nightmares in paint.
I despise the way Ms Swan wants us to sense how brave and forbearing she is for even talking about disgusting gay sex, but it’s Francis Bacon, she has to. She sounds like she wants to slip into a really crotch-tight pair of pantyhose and a Chanel biohazard suit every time she smirks out “hummosssexual.” Her disgust and distaste are palpable.
And we’re supposed to be all integrated and no big deal anymore, we “gays”! Imagine how she would have said “gender dysphoria”! She probably would have choked to death from giggling and vomiting at the same time, which would be unexpected for an art critic, but, hey—if you choke to death on your own vomit, you choke to death on your own vomit. It’s no big deal, there’s other critics!
And if you, my readers, haven’t figured it out yet: Trans persons are now in the place that gay men were in circa 1970. Outed, visible but with few people who care to understand what they experience, so vulnerable and so discriminated against, so loathed and considered subhuman by some, even, that our parliament felt it necessary to enshrine their human rights specifically in legislation. That’s where they are, right now.
You know what else? I bet Annalyn Swan even has Cabbage Patch Doll ankles, like stove pipes. Yes, I’m shallow and cruel but you made me this way.
Where was I? Oh yes. Anyway, back to my date. Not to doxx anyone, but the guy’s address is 3196 Sesame Street, and, yes, it’s germane to the story or I wouldn’t have included it. The number is right, but the street is changed to veil the innocent.
Innocent as in having nothing to do with the point of the story, and innocent by believing in the photographs and being unaware of the possibly terminal door-shock he soon will suffer when he sees the “after” version of this “before and after” make-over.
Anyway, I pile into the cab—I can’t really afford a cab, not all the way to Sesame Street, but a 66-in-less-than-two-months guy doesn’t always have a lot to enjoy in the ways of the flesh, and, as Stephen Sondheim said, “A girl ought to celebrate what passes by,” and she should know, little Tony-award monopolizer. Is there an award for “Best Least-Popular Broadway Musical”? Maybe it should be called the “Toni-est Award”!
I scrabble around in my knapsack—which should be, if there’s any justice for Meghan Markle, a sack to carry your knaps in—for the piece of 17 x 22″ onion skin tracing paper, which was the only piece of paper I could find, on which I’ve written the address in red Crayola, which was the only, etc. etc.
“Three one nine six Sesame Street, please,” I tell the driver.
And the driver turns round with a peculiar expression on his face. “Are you sure,” he says. “Because that’s my cab number. Are you sure?”
I look at the license info on the back of the front passenger seat. Then I look again at my red crayon handwriting on the tracing paper. And as crazy as it sounds, I kid you not:
The number of the cab is 3196.
So that’s how I ended up spending the night being verbally abused by Satanic bikers in the parking lot of the Summerhill LCBO.
Worth every friggin’ penny.