Calum McSwiggan

Archive for the ‘Gay’ Category

A Stranger in My Own Home

In Gay, Love on October 27, 2012 at 11:16 am

Eclipse

‘Clinging to me, like the last breath you would breathe, you were like home to me, I don’t recognise this street.’

– Ellie Goulding

I stepped off the train and breathed in my hometown, I was glad to be back, excited to walk old walks, and high on the thought of seeing old friends, but from the very first moment, I knew that something wasn’t quite right. I could feel a pair of eyes watching me, stalking me through the station, and following me as I wound back through the streets I’d once escaped from.

But every time I turned around and sought them out, there was nothing, so I carelessly shrugged them off and settled back into the warmth of the place that I once called my home. I awkwardly lingered at first, a stranger in my own home, except it wasn’t my home anymore, it hadn’t been for quite some time.

Things had changed, new pictures hung on the wall, new furniture filled the room, and new trinkets cluttered the mantle. When you disappear you kind of expect life to stand still behind you, but it doesn’t, you move on, and life moves on with you. It was obvious that like me, my ex had built a new life for himself, and the only thing left of the love we once shared were two silver rings sat next to a picture of a loving couple posing for their engagement. I once knew one of those boys as myself, but he was a stranger to me now, I didn’t recognise him anymore.

I smiled at the photo, placed one of the cold metal bands between my fingers, and let everything it stood for wash over me, a memory that once haunted my every waking dream, a memory that once corrupted me, a memory I thought I was now strong enough to face.

It was all too easy to fall back into the life I once knew, to have dinner with the boy who was once my world, to indulge in the things that once constituted my day-to-day life. I fell so hard into old habits that I very nearly forgot the new life I’d made for myself. I indulged in false luxuries, wrapped myself in the warmth of a familiar hug, and cherished the companionship of old friends, but deep down inside I could feel this inexplicable deep hollow ache that was slowly but surely consuming me.

The thing about a broken home is that no matter how far it has fallen into disrepair, it will always feel like home, and with my new found longing, I was happy to give myself over to it, I welcomed each new day with a smile, and very nearly forgot about the pain and suffering that once drove me to the brink of madness. I lay down in the comforting rubble of my former life, and turned a blind eye to the demons that crawled the streets, the phantoms that haunted my dreams, and the slow consuming agony that was building up inside me.

And amongst all of this, every now and then, I caught a glimpse of him- out of the corner of my eye, in the sparkle of a rogue reflection, or merged amongst the crowds in the streets. He was following me, and I let him slink closer and closer each day. He watched me from the adjacent street, stood outside my window, waited outside my door, and finally climbed into bed with me. I let him lie beside me, I let his warm fingers caress my body, soothe my pain, pull me in close, and adorn me with a false sense of hope, I let him do all of this.

But after only a few days the feeling began to go sour, as this dark creature held me in his embrace and slowly slid his fingers around my throat, the warmth I felt began to turn into a crippling loneliness. And like an eclipse on my soul, familiar nightmares began to resurface, forgotten arguments burst back into reality, and I began reliving feelings I thought I’d shut out for good. I tried to scream but his cold fingers were already suffocating me, throttling me, drowning me in dark unknown waters.

I gasped and spluttered and pleaded with him, but he already had me in his grip, and the only thing I could do was face him. I desperately stared into his empty ocean blue eyes, and for the first time, I recognised him for who he was, and realised it was me who was the stranger, not him.

It was the boy from the engagement photo, the boy I’d once seen in the mirror, the dark shadow of my former self, and all this time he’d been trying to tell me something, and all this time I’d refused to listen. I caressed his skin, examined the pain in every wrinkle, and let my eyes fall upon his blackened frozen lips. He struggled to find the words, and with all the effort of a thousand dying men, he spoke to me for the first time, and he told me to run.

And so I threw off his hands, clambered away from him, pulled myself from the comforting rubble, and once again embraced the dazzling sunlight. As I looked at the heartbroken glaze over his eyes, I reminded myself of the adventures behind me, and the adventures yet to come, told him that he wasn’t the person I wanted to be anymore, and allowed myself to draw a sharp underline to this life.

And just like that he returned to his photo, smiling sweetly and innocently, a permanent reminder of both the good memories and the bad. It may be even harder to say goodbye this time, but I know now more than ever, that although I can pass through for a few days, catch up with old friends, and appreciate the things that once made me ridiculously happy, I can never, ever, go back. 

The Lights of Berlin

In Eat, Gay, Love on October 15, 2012 at 9:25 am

Berlin City Lights

“I was in the winter of my life, and the men I met along the road were my only summer.”

– Lana Del Rey

I tipped my head back, downed the remnants of my wine and stared out of the kitchen window and down into the moonlit valley below. I had my best friend at my side, and there was a magic in the air, the kind of magic that can only be found in Italy. Atop our hidden mountaintop village we were free, nomadic adventurers from across the globe coming and going as we pleased, inspiring one another with whispered stories and laughing into the night.

It was as we all sat down at the table on the terrace outside when I first noticed him. I’m from New York but I’m moving to Berlin, he said and immediately drew my full undivided attention. Two places I’ve dreamed of visiting, two places that fascinate me, two places combined into one being, he intrigued me, and like all of the men who’d intrigued me before him, I had to know his story.

I hung on his every word, laughed at his every joke, and caught his every glance, I thought it could have been the start of a long and meaningful friendship but deep down I knew that when I disappeared on the train the following morning, like the many other amazing people I met that night, I’d probably never see him again.

But to my surprise it seemed that wherever I went people seemed to mention his name- my best friend, a work colleague, a stranger- and so when I closed my summer chapter and sought out my next adventure, I knew I wanted to make him part of it.

A distant promise of a visit quickly turned to reality and I found myself stood on his balcony in the cold autumn air, sipping wine, and looking out over Berlin. It all seemed very symmetrical, like we had been here before, and in a way we had, just in a different time and place.

The hours turned to days and what seemed like moments after my arrival I was already making my way to the train station with his jacket around my shoulders, we walked in silence and the whole time all I could think was that I wanted to kiss him, to cease him in front of all of Berlin just to say thank you for the inspiration, for the good times, and for the story, but instead I uttered a few empty words, hugged him, and left.

It didn’t hit me how saddened I was until I sat down on the midnight train and thought about the short time we’d spent together, a familiar lump caught in my throat and my eyes began to glaze over, I’d said goodbye so many times that I thought I’d become desensitised to it, but my stomach clenched as the butterflies were consumed in bile, and all I could think was why didn’t you kiss him goodbye?

Parting was inevitable but I wanted the chance to stay just one more night, to have the chance to say goodbye properly, to share a snapshot of romance before continuing on in search of something new, it wasn’t that I didn’t want it to end, I just wanted to end it right. I’m going to get off the train, I told myself.

My eyes fixed on the clock as I watched the last two minutes slowly ticking away. I’m going to get off, I said aloud, clearing the lump from my throat and rising to my feet. I wrestled my suitcase down from the luggage rack and as the seconds rapidly slipped away from me, I ran through the carriage and leapt off the train just before the whistle blew and the doors slammed shut behind me. Somebody was yelling at me in the distance, and I could hear the train pulling out of the station behind me, but I didn’t care. I ran through Berlin as fast and as far as my legs would carry me, burst through his front door in an overly theatrical Ross-And-Rachel-I-Got-Off-The-Plane-Style-Moment, and fell helplessly into his arms.

Except that I didn’t.

I sat and watched the seconds tick away into nothingness and let the train pull me away from him and take me somewhere new. I felt like crying, I swallowed hard and stared at my own watery eyes in the reflection of the window, and just before I turned away and fell into a heartbroken sleep, I caught glimpse of an explosion on the horizon.

I pressed my face up to the glass as one explosion followed another and the whole city erupted with colour. Bursts of neon blue and sparkling greens filled the carriage as the stars fell from the sky, night became day, and the festival of lights glowed on the horizon. Whilst consumed in the city I hadn’t seen them, yet from a distance they were breathtaking, and I knew that right there and then Berlin was giving me a proper goodbye, a good old fashioned firework send off.

And so I accepted that it was okay that we didn’t have a dramatic passion filled goodbye, sometimes goodbye is just goodbye, it doesn’t have to be filled with mad dashes through the airport and kissing in the rain, because after all, a goodbye can only ever mean as little or as much as the time you spent together. 

There And Back Again

In Eat, Gay on October 6, 2012 at 11:31 am

Munich By Night

‘I don’t do drugs, I am drugs’

– Salvador Dalí

As I slam my feet down on the tables, clink my stein together with those of my fellow lederhosen-wearing patrons, and pretend to know the words to German songs in celebration of the debauchery of Oktoberfest, I cautiously keep one eye fixed firmly on my drink and think of the last time I came to visit.

I opened my palms to the warmth of one of the camp fires, buried my toes into the sands of Nektar beach, and took large generous sips from my Mojito. I’d come to Munich for a big gay party and although I should have been thrilled to be there, all I felt was disappointment. I’d expected body shots and strobe lights; drag queens and transvestites; and teenage boys and love bites, but instead was greeted with a much more sophisticated event.

Groups of men in smart shirts and blazers gathered around flickering candles, listened to classical music, and talked about business. As the only person under the age of thirty, dressed in a t-shirt and jeans, I stuck out like a sore thumb, and naturally it wasn’t long until I attracted the attention of a crowd of nearby Germans. They circled me like a pack of well-dressed hyenas on a wilder-beast calf, and before I knew it they were handing me drinks faster than I could drink them.

I indulged them for a while, listening to their stories and sharing some of mine, but it didn’t take long for the conversation to fall into tedium. I knew that what I really wanted to be doing was drinking Jaeger out of somebody’s belly button, not discussing my opinions of Angela Merkel, and so I finally came to the end of my tether, slammed down my drink, and demanded to know where the hell the party was.

The youngest of the pack turned to me, and with a sly wink he whispered, it’s right here sweetheart, and handed me another drink, and that’s when things started to turn hazy.

The sun woke me the next morning and, checking the time, I frantically leapt out of bed and threw on my clothes. I had to be on a train to Italy in an hour, and it was a forty-five minute walk to the station. My legs felt like match-sticks and the floor felt like custard as I rolled my suitcase out into the street and pushed my headphones into my ears. Everything was blurry as if the whole city had been submerged underwater, or as if I was looking at it through a Vaselined lens, and my mind was running so fast that even the drum & bass that blasted in my ear drums sounded sluggish.

I reached the train station in less than five minutes and, as if my body was running on auto-pilot, I veered off straight for the sweet counter. My whole body was dripping with sweat and drool began to trickle down my chin as I gawped at the dazzling colours of the various candies. I grinned from ear to ear as I snatched up a bag and began scooping up handfuls of yellow bellies and flying saucers, and then gobbled them up in front of the cashier before beginning to refill the bag.

And those, I said through a mouthful of gummy bears I hadn’t yet paid for, two of those! My whole body began to convulse with excitement as she began to pour two large slushies, and not able to control myself any longer, I lunged forward for my two cups of sugary delight, threw money at her, and disappeared into the surging crowd.

It didn’t take long for the numbers to overwhelm me, and then suddenly I felt dizzy and was overcome with fear. Everyone was out to steal my sweets, and I didn’t know where I was, and didn’t understand why that girl was following me, and then in an explosion of colour the entire city collapsed around me until there was nothing but darkness and a high-pitched humming sound.

I woke up on the train, face down in a magazine I don’t remember buying, my face stuck to Thom Evans’ naked torso, and an Italian grandmother sat opposite, looking at me with the combination of repulsion, disappointment, and fear.

I apologised, and in an attempt to make awkward conversation, she asked me where I was headed. I told her I was on my way to teach English to children in the north of Italy, and those words very nearly gave her a stroke.

I was lucky, if somebody could slip a rave drug into my drink, they could have just as easily slipped in something more malicious, and I realise now the importance of being careful- from here on out I won’t be leaving my drink unattended and I definitely won’t be accepting drinks from strangers- unless they’re exceptionally cute.

The Pest in Budapest

In Eat, Gay on September 13, 2012 at 8:18 am

Budapest By Night

‘If you surround yourself with negative people, you’ll never feel settled in or become an equal.’

– Jessie J 

I was meandering through the city park, watching the young couples frolicking in the midsummer heat, when I caught glimpse of a pair of teenage boys exchanging a kiss beneath the boughs of an overhanging fruit tree. Outside of the safety of gay pride it’s such a rarity to see a gay couple openly kissing in broad daylight, and yet there they were, lay out in the middle of the park, not caring what anybody would think.

Watching them made my heart soar with pride and filled my blood with a fiery passion, they reminded me of everything I believe in, everything I want to be, and everything I am. It was those boys that stuck in my mind as the sun began to drop from the sky and I sunk into the warm inviting waters of the grand Turkish bath. I slowly breathed in my palatial surroundings, took effortless sips from my Pina Colada and watched the evening sun ripple over the bronze skin of the lifeguard as I reminisced about romances gone by. I was truly at peace.

And then a loud splash drenched me, completely interrupting my relaxation as an obese man hurled his child into the centre of the hot tub. He slapped his grotesque stomach, laughed obnoxiously, fished his spluttering son from the water, and then did it again.

With every splash he further diluted my delicious cocktail until I was drinking nothing but warm bath water. I eyed the other hot-tub-goers and in silent unison we declared our hatred for him. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and tried to ignore his presence, but the harrowing shrieks of his child demanded my attention as he was hurled over the wall and into the fast flowing rapids pool below.

I watched in horror for a moment as the child’s cries were replaced with an inaudible spluttering as he was tumbled around helplessly like a rag-doll in a wash cycle; I looked around for the lifeguard but he was nowhere in sight, I looked at the father who was still cackling menacingly and unwilling to help, and then I looked back to the child as he became nothing more than a writhing figure thrashing beneath the waves.

I couldn’t take it any more, my inner teacher, my inner father, my inner humanitarian kicked in- I shot the father a look of disgust and then leapt over the wall after the small child, pulling him screaming and terrified from the waters. He wrapped his tiny arms around my shoulders and sobbed and sobbed and sobbed, and just as I safely rested him down at the edge of the pool I took the abuse from his father head on.

Paedophile. Faggot. Pervert.

As a gay teacher the words stung like hot acid- perhaps it’s true that we have an obsession with youth, I even faced the challenge of having a crush on one of my eighteen year old students, but wrongly accusing us of paedophilia is what prevents us teaching across the globe.

The moment I heard that word, all I could see was red. I thought of the boys exchanging an innocent kiss in the park, and if anything what followed was for them. Uncharacteristically inappropriate remarks flew from my lips and I spat profanity like a truck driver. I wasn’t proud of it, especially not with the young child in proximity of my vulgar mouth, but when those around me came to my rescue, chiming in with biting comments of their own, I felt overwhelmed with appreciation.

And then a sharp whistle blew and I spun around to see the Adonis of a lifeguard coming to my rescue. A small ripple of applause sounded across the courtyard as he left the still spluttering child in the safety of his mother’s arms and removed the man from the premises.

Nobody knew my sexuality, yet still to have them come to my aid in the face of homophobia filled me with a warm feeling of acceptance. I suddenly felt the courage to be as open and free as the boys in the park, and had the lifeguard not had a preference for women, I would have almost definitely invited him to come for a walk on the green.

Teenage Dream

In Eat, Gay on August 9, 2012 at 10:42 am

Hot Skater Boys

‘I told him I wouldn’t teach him any more but he refused to accept it, he just kept coming back. It began to feel like our secret, and well, secrets can be… seductive.’

– Notes on a Scandal

Over the past couple of months I’ve grown used to having students develop crushes on me; I’ve been passed gifts of adoration in class, had scampering feet and giggling voices slip love letters under my hotel room door after curfew, and even had girls declare their undying love for me all over their Facebook pages- I’ve always found it both flattering and endearing but never thought that this attraction would ever be reciprocated.

Alarm bells first began to sound when I was offered work teaching sixteen to eighteen year olds in Germany. I’ve dated boys younger than that, I thought, and young skater boys are my kryptoniteyou can imagine my relief when I arrived to find that I wasn’t attracted to a single one of them, they weren’t unfortunate looking, they just thankfully weren’t my type.

That was until I was handed the bios and photographs of all the new student arrivals- I took one look at the pile, and, as if deliberately taunting me, a handsome eighteen year old Spanish boy smirked up from his photograph. I steeled myself for his arrival, reminding myself that I was an authoritative figure, but the moment he strutted into the hotel, showing off his ravishing good looks and muscle tone, I immediately went weak at the knees. It was almost impossible to keep myself composed, but I just about managed it, at least until the cruise…

I lay sunbathing on the deck of the boat as we sailed down the River Rhine one sunny afternoon, and as I admired the stunning scenery he took off his shirt and lay down directly in my eye line. The glistening sweaty torso of my eighteen year old student was unavoidable, and the thoughts whirring in my head couldn’t have been more inappropriate. I felt like I was Cate Blanchet in Notes on a Scandal and that at any moment I might be leading him down the railway tracks and

I knew I had to get rid of these thoughts, and quickly, and so I made a conscious effort to avoid his naked torso, but it proved to be impossible. He scored a goal in a football match and off came his shirt, we went for a walk in the rain and off came his shirt, we sat quietly in art class and off came his shirt, and then one evening when I thought things couldn’t get any more inappropriate, he answered his door to me wearing nothing but a carefully placed wash cloth.

I fumbled awkwardly for a moment, but just as I went to turn on my heel, I caught the scent of beer dripping from his lips. Want some? he said, noticing me clock the bottle on his bedside. My teenage dream had come true, a naked teenage Spaniard was inviting me into his room for a drink, and for a moment I had to remind myself where I was. Just five years earlier I was brainstorming different ways to illegally procure alcohol, and now here I was having to confiscate it.

Can I buy you a none-alcoholic drink? I joked the following evening as he grumpily slumped against the bar at the teenagers’ disco. He wasn’t amused, and as if deliberately trying to make me uncomfortable, he headed straight for the pole, ripped off his shirt and went at it like a wild animal, gyrating in an overly sexual manner, his muscles bulging as he lifted himself into the air and gracefully glided back down. I no longer felt like I was at a teenage disco, I suddenly felt like I was marvelling at some sordid show in Amsterdam’s House of Boys. 

And so eventually I resigned myself to the fact that I was attracted to him, and decided there was no point in pretending that I wasn’t. As long as I kept such thoughts to myself and didn’t write about it on the internet where the authorities and future employers could see, it would probably be okay to look as long as I definitely didn’t touch.

Table For One

In Eat, Gay, Love on July 31, 2012 at 5:58 am

Cute Boys Holding Hands

‘Listen carefully to the sound of your loneliness, like a heartbeat that drives you mad, in the stillness of remembering what you had, and what you lost.’

– Fleetwood Mac

His fingers wrapped around mine as he took me down yet another Roman backstreet, I didn’t know where he was taking me, but he had my trust. He kept promising to show me the real Rome, and lead me further and further away from the obnoxious glare of the tourists’ flashing cameras.

Tugging me inside a bustling Italian bar for aperitivo, he waved to some of his friends and lead me to the quiet upstairs for more privacy. We drank our drinks and said nothing whilst he longingly held my stare from the other side of the table. I tried using my best Italian to compliment his shoes but he just laughed quietly and silenced me by placing one soft finger upon my lips.

My heart raced as he reached over and massaged my fingers with his own, separating them and entwining our grasp, not breaking eye contact for even one moment. When the time came to leave, he wrapped his jacket around my shoulders to protect me from the rain and then walked me to the train station, holding my hand the whole way, not caring about those who stopped to stare at the pair of faggots holding hands.

And then as I boarded the train away, I cleared my throat, and coyly asked him for a kiss. He silently stepped up onto the train, pressed his warm lips against mine, and then slinked away with a heartfelt smile just as the carriage doors slammed shut.

That’s how it happened in my imagination, anyway, a fleeting romance that I’d tell people about for years to come- but as my life isn’t a fairytale, here’s what actually happened.

With the promise of a date with a beautiful Roman I had met briefly on my last visit, I sat by the fountain in the piazza watching the grey clouds slowly gathering overhead, impatiently tapping my phone and constantly checking the time – he was late.

I watched the Italian couples unashamedly making out wherever it took their fancy, and longed for some human contact. And then as the minutes turned to hours, I realised he wasn’t coming.

Determined to not let it ruin my evening, I found myself a quaint little back-street restaurant and asked for a table for one. Usually this inspires feelings of independence and freedom, but knowing full well that it should have been a table for two replaced such feelings with only shame and humiliation.

I ordered a plate of my favourite Italian food to try to compensate for the lack of a date, but when it arrived it only tasted bitter. The loneliness of the evening lead me to revisit bold and vivid images of my past failed relationship, and for a moment I was consumed with grief.

I left the restaurant, walked to the station alone in the rain, with no hand to hold and no jacket to wrap around my shoulders, and boarded the train away without a goodnight kiss. Although the logical person inside me tells me that I need to stop setting myself up for disappointment, I’m a romantic at heart, and I can’t help but imagine that every date will be the best date of my life.

I left Rome feeling sour and betrayed, but as my train arrived on The Italian Riviera the following morning, just one glance at my best friend waiting on the platform made all the negative feelings dissipate, and I was reminded of what I had known all along- you don’t need a man to make you happy, as long as you’ve got good friends.

One Night In Frankfurt

In Eat, Gay on July 25, 2012 at 9:07 am

Frankfurt by Night

‘Life is a sexually transmitted disease’

– R. D. Laing

I stumbled out of the Frankfurt train station and took to a street at random, I’d managed to lose my map but figured I had a good nose for direction- five minutes later and I was in the middle of Frankfurt’s red light district surrounded by strippers.

So what kind of girls are you in to? one of them asked me.

The kind with penises, I told them, and they waved me off down a side-street, assuring me that that was the direction I needed to go.

Unsure over whether or not it was a good idea to take advice from a stripper, I figured I didn’t really have any other choice, and began winding down the dimly lit streets. As I walked I found myself drawn into a pulsating bass-line and the ominous sound of a heaving crowd, and the closer I got, the more I began to realise why they had sent me in this direction.

At first I began to notice same-sex couples holding hands, and then I spotted rainbow flags and drag queens, and then I turned the corner and it hit me. As a deranged drag queen screamed down a microphone and began attacking glitter filled balloons with a machete, I realised I had accidentally come to Frankfurt Gay Pride, and then as if things couldn’t get any better, right there in the middle of it all, lit up in neon lights and decorated liberally with rainbow flags, was my hotel.

I couldn’t believe my luck. After finishing my job in Switzerland, I rolled out a map of Europe, randomly slammed my finger down on Frankfurt, and booked the first cheap hotel I could find, and somehow by absolute chance, I’d managed to orientate myself right in the centre of an enormous gay party.

There was one reason I chose Germany over all of the places that I could have visited, and that was the chance to finally complete my long unfulfilled fantasy of sleeping with a German boy. When the closest thing to sex you’ve had in several months of travelling is ten minutes in the shower with a clone of your ex’s penis, it’s no surprise that I’d go off in search of a real man. I’d spent the past months flirting with Italian boys, Spanish boys, and French boys without any real fulfilment- flirting with a German wasn’t going to be enough, so I renewed my Grindr subscription and headed to Frankfurt with every intent of fulfilling my fantasy. And The Universe approved of my plan by putting the entire gay population of Frankfurt right on my doorstep.

I dashed straight upstairs to my hotel room, quickly showered and threw on fresh clothes, necked a bottle of wine, and headed down into the party. My song was playing as I glided down the staircase and out into the street, my feet trod so lightly on the pavement that I felt like I was flying, for the first time since splitting with my ex, I felt like I had complete control back over my life, I was free to do what I wanted, when I wanted. I had a wallet stuffed with hard-earned disposable cash, nobody to disapprove of me or judge me for my actions, and absolutely no commitment to anything but the dance floor.

And right there before me was a crowd of beautiful skater boys, all slender and toned, with dazzling blue eyes and perfectly straightened hair, I had come to Germany just in time for the skater-boy-buffet, and my only complaint was that I only had time to sample one dish.

After hours of dancing, with fire in my belly and lust in my veins, I found him at the Brazilian cocktail bar. He flicked his messy jet black hair out of his eyes as I approached him and gave me a wide-cheeky grin; he was ordering a blowjob from the topless bartender, I simply told him that I knew where he could get a better one and lead him back to my hotel.

I was proud of my accomplishment, not that I had bedded a German boy, but that I had wanted to do something and so I simply went and did it, it was really that easy. I never expected to hear from him again after I kissed him Auf Wiedersehen in the hotel lobby, but as I headed for the airport to catch my flight to Rome, my phone buzzed and I found a single text from an unknown German number. I knew instantly who it was from- it just said three little words that made absolutely no sense, yet at the same time meant so much, love the world.

I knew he’d meant to say safe travels, enjoy your trip, but in his broken English, he’d managed to say something ultimately more poetic.

Love the world.

I will, I thought, I will.

My Vietnamese Brother

In Eat, Gay on June 25, 2012 at 5:53 pm

My Vietnamese Brother

Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new’

– Brian Tracy

As I hopped off the train in Frascati, a town famed for Miss Frascati (pictured above) and renowned for its delicious and extremely alcoholic white wine, I met the family I would be living with for the next couple of weeks- they were the average Italian family, charming and well groomed, passionate and welcoming, loving and friendly. They first introduced me to their daughter on the platform, and told me that they had another special somebody for me to meet back home.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, I was half-hoping that they had found me an Italian Stallion, but when they pushed open the door to their home and I heard the gentle pitter-patter of teeny-tiny feet, I knew that it was something even better- they’d found me a new best friend.

A five year old Vietnamese boy bumbled around the corner, charging towards me and yelling ‘Ciao Bello!’ excitedly. He latched onto my leg and looked up at me with a wide and cheeky grin, he was the most adorable creature I’d ever met, and we instantly became friends.  

We were inseparable, him and I, when I got home from work at the end of each day, he’d run into my bedroom, sit on the end of the bed and pull funny faces or sing songs about monkeys. We were fascinated by each other, whenever I turned my back I’d find him rummaging through my backpack, pulling things out and making a dreadful mess, examining every item with his wide expressive eyes before putting them all back in the wrong place- usually I hate children touching my things but he was a special exception.

I was amazed by how attentive and loving his adoptive parents were, constantly telling me what a precious and special child he was, and revealing that it cost them an astounding £25,000 to go through the adoption process. They showed me scores of baby pictures of him in Vietnam where they flew out to collect him, and they both welled up with sheer pride as they showed me pictures of his first steps. Their children were their world in a way that I’d never before witnessed.

So, then, imagine my horror when I came back from having a shower to find my beautiful new brother holding my dildo. Hidden away in the recesses of my suitcase I had a clone of an ex boyfriend’s penis- we’d bought a kit online and created a latex copy of his member, thinking it would be funny, and now a Vietnamese child was waving it around in front of me- it was clean and unused but I was still absolutely mortified.

Not knowing what else to do,  I snatched it out of his hands and stuffed it back into my suitcase; confused by my sudden aggression he scampered off to get his mother. Moments later they returned and she told me that I had a toy he wanted to play with.

I don’t know what you’re talking about, I said in the most unconvincing fashion.

He immediately ran over to my suitcase, yelled something in Italian, and began rummaging through my things- I watched in absolute terror, praying that he wouldn’t find it again and whip it out in front of the protective woman who loved him so much that she paid £25,000 to adopt him.

Thankfully she pulled him away before he could find it again but for the duration of my stay there I had to play hide the dildo every single day, thinking up new and inventive ways to keep it out of sight.

I’d like to say I’ve learned a valuable lesson from this- nothing is private when you’re living with young children, and it’s an alarmingly difficult task to keep things out of reach. Considering what had happened, I decided it would be a smart move to hide my copy of Bareback Skater Boys 3 in my Kylie Minogue CD case.

I got quite the fright when I played musical chairs with eighty children a week later and decided to whack some Kylie on.

The Gay Chameleon

In Eat, Gay on June 8, 2012 at 8:08 am

‘It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but rather the one most adaptable to change’

– Leon C. Megginson

As I sit writing this in a coffee shop in Portugal, one of the most gay-friendly countries in the world, I can’t help but think about the way I adapt my personality to suit my environment. I happily mince around the accepting countries of the world like Spain, England, and Holland, but when it comes to countries with homophobic beliefs, I cover up my sexuality like it’s something I’m ashamed of.

Whilst teaching in Italy last year, I stayed with several different host families, and although they were all friendly, loving, and generous, my employer had warned me not to mention the gay thing. Despite my conflicting ideals, I heeded this advice and routinely slipped my engagement ring into my pocket before every breakfast, lunch and dinner, hoping to avoid any unwanted questions.

Sooner or later the truth would surface, though, and they’d ask about my fiancé. I’d fumble nervously and make up spur of the moment lies about the girl I was engaged to, and when they asked to see pictures, I showed them drunken photographs of me and my best friend kissing- it was proof enough, and the subject wouldn’t be brought up again.

One family, though, were relentlessly homophobic- they treated me with such generosity and kindness, yet, because of their Catholic background, were against everything I stood for. They made outrageously inappropriate jokes over dinner and one evening the father even told me that gay people disgust him.

I felt like I was having dinner with the Berlusconis; you can imagine my discomfort when they later told me that I’d have to share a bed with their seventeen year old son. I could hardly explain to them why this was massively inappropriate, and if I complained I would have seemed ungrateful, so, later that evening, I reluctantly climbed into bed with the homophobes’ son.

Despite being tired from spending the whole day playing Olly Olly Octopus with energetic ten year olds, I couldn’t catch a wink of sleep. I had to keep reminding myself where I was and who was in the bed beside me, terrified that in my half-asleep state I would try to give him a reach-around.

I never thought I’d say this, but spending the night with a semi-naked seventeen year old Italian, was, without a doubt, the worst night of my life.

I’m flying back to Italy this evening, and I’m preparing myself to once again pretend to be a straight man. My hard-drive is readied with pictures of my ‘girlfriend’, my gay pride flag and Little Box of Big Gay Love are hidden away in the recesses of my back-pack, and luckily I no longer have to worry about wearing that troublesome engagement band.

Although I hate not being true to myself, I look forward to playing this game of pretend. Gay men are like chameleons, we’re incredibly talented at adapting to our surroundings; through growing up we learn to disguise our sexuality in the face of adversity, and in a world where we can’t be true to who we are, wherever we are, it’s a tool that serves us well.

Now, I must dash, I think Ronaldo’s house is near here and I’m going to go see if I can blend into his bed-sheets.

Mincing in Morocco

In Eat, Gay on June 5, 2012 at 8:25 am

Mincing in Morocco

‘A lot of people like to downgrade Morocco and Africa like it’s all jungles and lions and shit. The actual truth is a lot of stuff is going on out there’

– French Montana

For the first time in my twenty two years of living, I stepped outside of the safe haven of Europe. I left behind the countries where gay men are protected by the law, and aimed straight for Morocco, a country where homosexual conduct can result in three years in prison.

As I took my first steps into Africa, I was more than slightly apprehensive about what to expect. I’d heard about a group of men who were sentenced to ten months in jail just for attending a gay wedding, and about a gay porn company that were shut down and given a combined sentence of thirty years imprisonment- it goes without saying that I left my gay pride flag behind.

Military vehicles and scores of army militia patrolled the streets, every time they passed me I felt like I had to adjust my walk, not wanting to give away my sexuality by mincing around, terrified that they might seize me and bang me up in some god awful Moroccan jail. To make matters worse, some of the army men kept jogging around with their tops off, wearing nothing but teeny tiny commando shorts-  it was near impossible to keep averting my gaze.

After a few hours, though, I began to recognize that something was amiss. The place wasn’t anywhere near as homophobic as I’d imagined- a man with blonde highlights was mincing around with a Chihuahua, another pair of men were giving out high pitched giggles and slapping each other playfully, even the army men who had previously intimidated me seemed a bit overly handsy with one another.

It was only whilst tucking into some pinchitos that the ball really dropped. I had been watching a group of hot male sunbathers, they kept making jokes and then playfully touching each other, wrestling and getting extremely cosy beneathe their parasol. Then one lay on his friend’s chest and the other began stroking his arm- they may as well have been tossing each other off. I wasn’t in homophobic Africa, I was in sodding San Francisco. The more I looked around, the more I noticed it, I was right in the middle of a raving gay hullapalooza, and at this point I wouldn’t have been surprised if an entourage of rainbow flags and drag queens paraded down the street.

The law may state that homosexuality is illegal in Morocco but from what I’ve witnessed the opinion of the state does not match that of the people. Assuming that the homophobia must be rooted in the poverty stricken areas in the south, I did some quick research and, to my surprise, discovered that all of Morocco is seen as a gay hot-spot by the majority of North Africa.

The gay underground culture is thriving, gay nightclubs are immerging in Marrakesh, hammams are commonly used as hot-spots for gay orgies, and they even operate under a series of gay codes and language.

The hugely positive thing about this is that it brings in an enormous amount of money for the Moroccan economy, and even though the government are strongly opposed to it, they are forced to turn a blind eye. Furthermore, the huge congregations of gay people mean that gay rights groups are beginning to band together and the government are under a lot of pressure to buckle to equal rights.

I feel privileged to have had my eyes opened to this, what I’ve witnessed truly gives me hope for the progression of the gay rights movement in other deeply religious countries of the world. In light of everything I’ve seen, I now have an even stronger belief that world-wide equality can be, and will be, some day achieved.