Category Archives: Humour

Gay History: A Famous Drag Queen, a Mummy in the Closet, and a Baffling Mystery

Sequined gowns weren’t the only thing stashed in Dorian Corey’s wardrobe.

Dorian Corey in a still from Paris is Burning. ALL IMAGES FROM PARIS IS BURNING

IN OCTOBER OF 1993, LOIS Taylor entered the Harlem apartment of Dorian Corey, a drag performer and dressmaker who’d died of AIDS two months earlier at the age of 56. Accompanied by two men searching for Halloween costumes, Taylor, a fellow New York drag queen and caretaker of Corey in her final days, was hoping to sell them a small fraction of Corey’s wardrobe. They rifled through fabric, feathers, and sequins before they encountered a large closet, where, Taylor said, the sight of a musty green-plaid garment bag folded over on the floor piqued their collective interest.

“I only weigh 135 pounds. I couldn’t lift that thing,” Taylor told New York magazine in 1993. Resigning to her powerlessness to find the zipper, Taylor handed a pair of scissors to one of the men, only to learn that what the curious mass lacked in portability, it made up for in distinct malodor. Without inspecting further, Taylor called the police.

Peeling through multiple layers—first the bag’s fabric, then taped wrappings of what was likely Naugahyde, a type of faux leather, and plastic—detectives revealed a grisly sight: a partially mummified body in the fetal position, its formerly brown complexion now purple and yellow, its ears mere cartilaginous vestiges, its blue-and-white boxer shorts tattered, with a bullet hole in its head. Encased within the layers, detective Raul Figueroa observed, were detachable pull-tabs from flip-top beer cans, whose prime in the United States ranged from the 1960s to the 1970s.

Despite the technical hurdles posed by decay, Figueroa managed to extract fingerprints from the corpse. The body was identified as Robert “Bobby” Worley, born December 18, 1938. The only extant records from Worley’s life were criminal; he’d been arrested for raping and assaulting a woman in 1963 and served three years in prison. By most accounts, he was estranged from his family and hadn’t been seen since the mid- to late ’60s. Coupling this with Figueroa’s pull-tab dating method, detectives concluded the shooting must have happened at least 20 years prior.

Superficial cues might dictate that Dorian Corey had little reason to engage in violent crime. A graduate from the Parsons School of Design, she had a knack for graphic design, which she parlayed into repute as a costumer. In the Harlem drag ball scene—where veteran drag queens and their young breakdancing and voguing counterparts participated in tongue-in-cheek pageants to showcase humor, irony, and ambition through performance—Corey was a stalwart diva. Her experience led her to mentor and support young queens as the mother of her drag family, the House of Corey. “You lend money to your friends—not very much money—and [give] advice…sometimes, if someone got evicted or whatever, you might take them in,” she explained on a 1991 episode of the Joan Rivers Show.

What stands in starkest contrast to the gruesome implications in her closet, perhaps, is Corey’s demeanor. The most extensive video footage of Corey is from the 1990 Jennie Livingston documentary Paris Is Burning, an examination of the aforementioned ball culture; in interviews, she was witty, realistic, and unflappable. In contrast to the grandiosity of aspiring models and housewives, she had a self-possessed cadence and world-weary observations, which endeared her to a comparatively mainstream audience.

“Everybody wants to make an impression, some mark upon the world,” she says in the film. “Then you think, you’ve made a mark on the world if you just get through it, and a few people remember your name…If you shoot an arrow and it goes real high, hooray for you.”

Yet it’s apparent, from her interviews and an alleged silence about her life with Worley, that Corey was also guarded. Considered in tandem with the circumstances of the discovery, plenty of questions remain. Why might she have committed murder? What was her relationship to Robert Worley? How and why was the body preserved and not disposed of? Despite a lack of evidence or sources who are still living (many queens who knew Corey have succumbed to either disease or violence), these questions have provoked a number of theories.

Though the idea has now fallen out of favor, some posited that Corey was “protecting” the real murderer. In 1988—between the probable time of Worley’s and Corey’s deaths—Corey moved from her apartment at 150th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue to one located 10 blocks over on West 140th Street. The notion that the body was in the closet before she moved, the hypothesis goes, is more plausible than that of Dorian’s lugging a corpse from one home to another.

Others maintain, more credibly, that Worley was a burglar who broke into Corey’s home, prompting Corey to act in self-defense. Corey lived in later-20th-century Harlem, where violent crime ran rampant. (Livingston recalled numerous gunfights outside Corey’s apartment during interviews for the film.) For her own protection, she presumably owned a gun; her friend Jessie Torres affirmed she had “a little .22” in an interview shortly after news of the murder surfaced. More telling, Corey had allegedly attached a note to the body reading “This poor man broke into my home and was trying to rob me.” Furthermore, the theory suggests a possible reason she kept the body: a black drag queen who lived in a poor, dangerous area in the ‘60s or ‘70s had little chance of garnering sympathy from the police.

Prevailing sentiment, however, contends that Corey and Worley had a turbulent romantic relationship that reached a tragic conclusion in a crime of passion. According to Taylor, Corey wrote a short, third-person story about a transgender woman who killed her lover after he browbeat her into having sex reassignment surgery. Handwritten on a piece of paper yellowed with age, the story seemed at least loosely autobiographical—Corey had had breast implants and possibly taken female hormones—and was peppered with references to her life, including the Pearl Box Revue, a touring drag show she’d performed with in the ‘60s.

Additional clues point to this supposition. Torres had relayed that Corey, hospitalized and in a haze of AZT and morphine, had confessed to her friend Sally in Corey’s final days. Richard Mailman, whose upcoming play Dorian’s Closet explores the story, says that, according to a police interview with Worley’s brother, Worley “showed up at his [brother’s] house one night drunk, and he was going on and on and on about Dorian. There was that sort of corroboration that he was in a relationship and did know Dorian.”

Indeed, any relationship they had was fraught. Reg Flowers, whose one-man play Out of the Bag plumbs the psyche of Robert Worley, suggests that Worley may have struggled to reconcile the pressures of appearing masculine and straight with his attraction to Corey, lashing out at her in bouts of frustration. “Being in a relationship with someone who was abusive would make sense [as an explanation], especially when you’re talking about when men are attracted to trans people,” he says. “My sense is that we’re talking about someone who might be closeted about their homosexuality as well, and so there might have been all kinds of internalized hatred and internalized oppression. My sense of it is that it was a dangerous situation that Dorian needed to get out of.”   

As for the body, Mailman postulates that Corey, fearing disposing of it would be too conspicuous in congested Manhattan, covered it in baking soda and wrapped it tightly to neutralize the inevitable odor. Decades’ worth of chemical reactions likely rendered an amateur mummification job. “I don’t think she had a criminal mind. She didn’t plan the murder, and when it happened, she had to think fast,” he says. “In the mind of someone who commits a crime of passion, that kind of makes sense.”

Still, how did Corey get away with murder? At least three factors may explain this: Corey’s consistent cool and grace, and Worley’s estrangement from his family and the lack of documentation about his life, and the suppression of the corpse’s stench. But perhaps the murder’s obscurity is primarily owed to a fourth, socioeconomic factor: the othering and invisibility of two poor, sexually complex black people navigating internal and external turmoil in 1960s and ‘70s America.

A definitive answer remains elusive and probably always will. It’s unsurprising: Corey was part of a highly marginalized world, and her life—even the part ripe for a campy tabloid headline—attracted little attention. Still, whatever brought these two together—and whatever happened the day of Worley’s death—Dorian Corey has made an indelible mark.

Reference

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Gay History: Before The Simpsons, Matt Groening Created This Pro-Gay Comic Strip That You Have To See

Take a look at Akbar and Jeff, a gay couple created by Matt Groening far before The Simpsons

Fox. Akbar and Jeff were Matt Groening’s original same-sex couple

Before Matt Groening created The Simpsons, he was drawing a neurotic rabbit and a same-sex couple who both dressed like Charlie Brown.

In 1986, Life In Hell’s Akbar and Jeff predated Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie and they were remarkably ahead of their time.

Groening had started drawing Akbar and Jeff in the fifth grade. Years later, in 1986, he drew this comic strip where the two came out to each other.

Wearing matching t-shirts, shorts and fezzes (it was the 80s), the boyfriend twins quickly formed into the alternative comic world’s iconic same-sex couple.

‘My friends and I were trying to draw Charlie Brown,’ Groening said in the late 80s. ‘We tried to imitate Peanuts, and they never came out looking right. And so eventually those drawings mutated into Akbar and Jeff.

‘They still have the Charlie Brown shirt if you noticed. Later I was trying to think about what kind of people they were and finally realized, of course, they’re gay, they’re lovers.’

While outing Akbar and Jeff as a gay couple meant there was a backlash, Groening kept drawing them in the Life In Hell comic book series.

A beer company had approached Groening to see if they could use Akbar and Jeff as mascots.

‘Then the article in Rolling Stone came out about me, and it was revealed that, “Oh my god. Akbar and Jeff – they’re not normal.” And the beer company dropped Akbar and Jeff,’ Groening said.

The beer company said it wouldn’t work to market gay characters to frat boys.

‘I said, “Listen, these are cartoon characters. It’s not that big a deal.” S

Groening said he wanted to have a same-sex couple in the series, but thought having a straight couple would end up using lazy jokes about men and women.

‘No one can accuse me of trying to score points against men or women if the characters are identical,’ he said.

Life In Hell continued until 2012, and in that time Akbar and Jeff’s relationship kept being explored.

Akbar and Jeff, for the secondary stars of an alternative comic, also inspired many.

How Matt Groening’s Akbar and Jeff were inspirational

Scott Craig and Peter Alexander, a gay couple from Silverlake, created a LGBTI music venue Akbar – a tribute to the comic. Alexander had previously worked for Groening.

‘This is literally how me and my boyfriend got together,’ one guy said on Reddit.

‘When I was 14 I was sleeping over at a friends house & we were high and giggling over a Matt Groening book I’d got earlier in the day at a church book sale.

‘Turned page, this comic came up. We both got a little quiet. Heh…heh… Haltingly, friend said “Ummm hey….are you….gay?”

‘”Maaaaaaaybe” says I. And that was the first night of many that we made out that summer!’

Reference

Gay History: This Discontinued Gay Ken Doll Will Haunt Mattel Forever

Remember when Mattel accidentally made a super gay Ken doll? We do. And queer people made him the best selling Ken doll, ever.

The year is 1993. Barbie is cool as shit, but her boyfriend Ken…not so much. Way less outfits, way less adventures, and with cool dudes like G.I. Joe and the New Kids on the Block fashion dolls to woo the blonde bombshell over, Ken’s chances weren’t looking great. Mattel needed to do something, and stat. So they surveyed a bunch of five year olds who definitely knew what cool was and made a whole new Ken, ready to burst out of the closet and say hi to the world.

Chrome cock ring necklace and all.

Wait, what??

You may be shocked to find out that children have a very easily influenced idea of what’s cool. The quizzed little girls that Mattel surveyed were more than happy to repeat back what they saw as cool (mainly whatever was airing on the then still-newish MTV), but five years olds aren’t exactly known for their in-depth understanding of social trends, gender norms, and the general cultural climate. So they had no idea that say, Madonna’s cool back up dancers, were actually gay AF.

And that’s how we ended up with Earring Magic Ken, a companion to Earring Magic Barbie clad in a purple mesh shirt, a purple leather vest, wearing a big, shiny, silver ring around his neck. While he fits into some gay stereotypes, (especially from the early ’90s), it’s the necklace that really got everyone’s attention.

Curtesy chateau_cat on Instagram

As gay author and journalist Dan Savage explains in a column about the doll from 1993, in the late ’80s and early ’90s, besides being a sex toy, a cock ring was the queer fashion statement of the time. Leather daddies wore them stitched to their vests. Lesbians wore them as zipper pulls. Placement on clothing communicated secret preferences to those in the know, much like pierced ears at the time (Ken does have that “straight” at least). And many, many people wore them around their necks as a necklace. Ken included. The accessory was a staple of the gay club culture that was blowing up at the time, a scene Ken would fit right into with his leather/mesh ensemble.

Obviously, none of those little girls told the Mattel researchers that they wanted Ken to wear a cock ring around his neck. It is probably true that the adults designing the doll saw the fashion out of context and never thought to dig deeper. Mattel staunchly denies the doll was intended to have anything to do with homosexuality at all. The early ’90s was a time when queer culture was just starting to blossom in the open, still reeling from the horror of the AIDS crisis. Queer culture and pop culture were beginning to mingle in a way they hadn’t before, and Earring Magic Ken is an example of what happens when you pay attention to the what of trends and not the why.

Mattel, who has never been pleased about this connection, rushed to discontinue the dolls. However, the story spread faster than them, and sales for the doll spiked, making him the best selling Ken doll ever. Some even claim the best selling Barbie model ever, but as Mattel is unwilling to discuss our friend Ken’s current status, that title goes to Total Hair Barbie (released the year before).

Still, he will always have his little place in history as the time Barbie supported her boyfriend in exploring his homosexual tendencies. Who knew Barbie was such a cool girlfriend?

How Barbie’s Boyfriend Ken Became an Accidental Gay Icon

The toy company Mattel introduced the doll Earring Magic Ken in the early 1990s as one of six dolls in the Earring Magic Barbie collection. But the company quickly recalled and discontinued the doll due to an unintended depiction of then-taboo gay culture. YVONNE HEMSEY/GETTY IMAGES/JULIUS SEELBACH/FLICKR/CC BY 2.0

Mattel has been manufacturing its Barbie dolls since 1959. Shortly thereafter, it began producing dolls of Barbie’s boyfriend, Ken. Girls really liked Barbie, and the doll became a certifiable cultural force, but Ken dolls never sold as well. In an effort to increase sales of Ken dolls in the early ’90s, Mattel’s research department worked with a group of 5-year-old girls to find out what might make them more likely to nag their parents to buy one.

This workshop of young girls, inspired by images and music videos they’d seen on the then-culture-defining MTV music video network, wanted Ken to have a cool, new look, as author Matt Haig detailed in his book “Brand Failures: The Truth About the 100 Biggest Branding Mistakes of All Time.” And what “cool” meant to 5-year-olds who’d seen MTV was maybe a mesh shirt. And a leather vest. And an earring, and tight pants. Oh, and maybe a flashy necklace, too.

The minds at Mattel went on to produce this version of Ken and in 1993, Earring Magic Ken was born. He wore a lavender mesh shirt, a matching purple leather vest, hip-hugging black jeans, and even had a new earring at a time when men having pierced ears in the United States was still somewhat risqué. Ken, just like the other dolls in the Earring Magic collection, even came with a human-sized clip-on earring for the kids to wear.

Ken even had a flashy, circular chrome ring dangling around his neck. But Mattel’s choice for Ken’s necklace would cause a row that the company would soon regret. That’s because a panel of 5-year-olds generally isn’t sophisticated enough to parse the subversion of gender norms, to understand the flouting of traditional masculinity, to ken the coded language of underground fashion — or to predict the cluelessness of toy designers.

At this time, we should point readers who’d rather avoid more graphic discussion of human sexuality in another direction. Perhaps you’d like to read about solar eclipses, or how 3-D printing works? You also could learn whether a giant squid could actually defeat a submarine. But if you’re sticking around beyond this paragraph, things get a little more adult.

The Earring Magic line of Barbie dolls included several versions of Barbie as well as the characters Midge, Ken, and others not pictured. KSUTA/FLICKR/CC BY 2.0

“He’s always read gay,” said Dan Savage, internationally renowned columnist and podcaster, in an email, “but has he ever read gayer than he did with a gay sex toy around his neck?”

Savage originally wrote about Earring Magic Ken in the summer of 1993, when much of the pop culture world was having a good laugh at Mattel’s lack of understanding that while little kids saw what Prince, the members of Right Said Fred or Madonna’s backup dancers were wearing simply as “cool,” the adult world was clued in to how gay it was.

The doll flew off the shelves, especially since gay men, including Savage, rushed out to buy a Ken doll. The kitsch factor drove Earring Magic Ken to become the best-selling Ken doll at the time. We reached out to Mattel for comment multiple times — to find out just how well the doll sold and whether it remains the No. 1 Ken, as well as for the current regime’s take on this piece of corporate history — but they did not return our requests.

Earring Magic Ken has become a sought-after collectible, fetching high prices on online auction sites like eBay. JULIUS SEELBACH/FLICKR/CC BY 2.0

Though the Earring Magic Ken incident showed that LGBTQ culture at the time had infiltrated the mainstream (or, arguably, been co-opted by it), Ken might’ve simply remained the butt of late-night jokes until Savage — who’s since gone on to serve as one of the country’s most prominent sex and relationship advice columnists — published his explanation of the gay-culture subtext communicated by wearing the sex toy.

As Savage outlined back in the 1990s, the chrome metal ring used as a sex toy was also worn as a fashion accessory among certain subsets of the queer community. The rings were used as necklaces, bracelets, zipper-pulls, and worn just about anywhere else they could be attached. And in a form of code, specific placements on clothing could imply certain sexual preferences among the gay crowd; you can read Savage’s more detailed account of the nuances in the Chicago Reader’s archives.

Mattel quickly pulled the dolls from the shelves and apologized for the error. Clearly, it was not their intention to associate a child’s doll with an adult sex accessory.

Ultimately, Savage thinks the Earring Magic Ken incident is more of an amusing cultural blip than some kind of important moment, noting that neither the doll nor the hubbub is well-known today. “I don’t think a gay man under 40 would even know what we we’re talking about,” he said.

Adam McDonald is a 36-year-old gay man and film critic for the Bored as Hell podcast. “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” he said when asked about Earring Magic Ken.

Dan Savage still has his Earring Magic Ken doll, though. When asked him about it, he quickly emailed a brand-new photograph of it, sex toy and all, proving that it had left at least some impression — if nothing other than as a relic of a unique time in quickly changing American popular culture.

References

GayHistory: Mickey Mouse, Homophobe

Mickey Mouse: guilty of a hate crime?

Brent Bozell is one of those right-wingers who has made a career of being indignant at every hour of the day, always on the lookout for an excuse to whine and complain. One of the things that upsets him is that some comic books feature openly gay characters. “The world of comic books has sure changed a lot since we were young,” Bozell wrote in a 2006 column. “Who would have predicted, 10 years ago, that the comics would become a red-light neighborhood where sexually perverted superheroes would be packaged to elicit from children fascination and sympathy?”

Like most professional moralists, Bozell has no real sense of history: he’s a traditionalist with no grounding in the past. If Bozell knew anything about earlier times, he would realize that gays have been portrayed in comics for decades, not just in comic books but even in comic strips that ran in family newspapers.

What could be more wholesome than Mickey Mouse, the big-eared emblem of the Disney empire? Yet a Mickey Mouse comic strip from January 22, 1931 shows the little rodent meeting a big cat who displays all the markers stereotypically given to gay characters during that period: a lisp, a limp handshake, and a general effeminacy of manner (in this case, batting eyelashes). Revealing himself to be not just homophobic but a violent gay-basher, Mickey attacks the big cat.

In the early decades of the 20th century, many cartoonists featured characters that were gay stereotypes: swishy men and butch women. I’ve sprinkled examples throughout this essay. Here are some notes on them (to maximize enjoyment of these images, I suggest clicking on each one):

Roy Crane’s Wash Tubbs

1. In an April 11, 1925 Wash Tubbs sequence, the hero meets a “girl” who turns out to be Desperate Desmond, a cowboy actor.

Harold Gray’s Little Orphan Annie

2.In a January 11, 1927, Little Orphan Annie strip, the pupil-less waif talks to Miss Brussels, a very manly woman who runs an all-girls schools (which were, in popular folk-lore, places where Sapphic love flourished). “Hm-m-m- Never saw anyone just like that before,” Annie reflects. “Dresses lots like a man, doesn’t she, Sandy?” Like many of the masculine women in Annie, Miss Brussels turns out to be a very bad egg, who mistreats the poor orphan. (Later on in the Cold War era, Annie meets some traitorous State Department diplomats who seemed very effeminate, conforming to the commonly-held notion that gays were more likely to betray their country).

Rea Irvin’s The Smythes

3. A 1930 Sunday page of The Smythes, a domestic comedy drawn by Rea Irwin, the famed cartoonist who was so instrumental in creating the visual ambience of The New Yorker magazine, features a very foppish interior decorator named Mr. Bullfinch.

Frank King’s Gasoline Alley

4.Frank King also used an “interior decorators are gay” gag in a June 06, 1930 Gasoline Alley strip.

5.Terry and the Pirates in the late 1930s, which had a lesbian villain (Madam Sanjak from 1939) and a gay villain Papa Pyzon (in 1936) based on Charles Laughton (who was himself gay and also collected comic strip art). Madame Sanjak specialized in kidnapping and hypnotising young girls, and making them her slaves. For more on these characters see this article.

Will Eisner’s The Spirit, part

6. A Spirit story, by Will Eisner, from September 07, 1941 introduces a character named Miss Dorothy Heartbern, who turns out to be a very fey man. Asked to impersonate the Spirit, he says, “The Spirit! Oh! How romantic!! I just love bad men!!” The phrase “a friend of Dorothy” was commonly used to describe gay men in that period.

There are enough of these gay characters that one could easily do an anthology called “The Gay Image In Comics before Stonewall.” The general point to make about these characters is that they are all homophobic stereotypes, although the tone of the representation varies greatly. Sometimes the cartoonists were mildly satirical (as swishy she-men), sometimes melodramatically hostile (as vile seducers of children).

Will Eisner’s The Spirit part 2

One last point needs to be made: conservatives like Bozell never objected to these gay stereotypes when they flourished in the comics. So what people of this ilk are upset about is not the representation of homosexual per se, but about the fact that gays are increasingly shown in a neutral or favourable light. As long as gays are represented in a homophobic way, Bozell and his political allies would never raise a voice of objection. For the Bozells of the world, it is okay to show gays, as long as you don’t show them as human beings.

Reference

  • Mickey Mouse, Homophobe, sans everything, 16 December 2009, by Jeet Heer

Gay History: 16 Vintage “Gay” Advertisements That Are Funny Now That “Gay” Means “GAY”

“Gay” is a great word. Here’s why: it rhymes with everything. Also, it’s brief. Therefore it should be no surprise that even before it meant “inverted sinner pervert homosexual” and still meant “happy.” What happened next was that gayness and happiness split up, but they’ve been getting back together ever since and are going strong. Look at our ancestors in gayness!

16 Vintage “Gay” Ads That Weren’t Actually About Gay People But Should Be Now

16.

which makes 4th of july a gay holiday

15.

the captain is actually waving goodbye to these girls who he hasn’t got a chance with anymore

14.

before R Family, there were these guys

13.

as we know it from watching ‘the real l word’!

12.

we go way back with beer

11.

if you know what haviland & riese vlog this line is from, you win a pony

10.

this teapot inspired the romi klinger hit track, “gay in LA”

9.

it’s a white tank top

8.

there are a lot of ways to look at this situation, i haven’t picked just one yet

7.

not as sweet as lesbian sex, but sweet

6.

but lately we’ve been really into these color-coded bandana things?

5.

it’s every straight girl’s favorite fantasy

4.

3.

this paint roller is detachable, p.s.

2.

every little girl’s dream, every parent’s nightmare

1.

but what does it mean?

Reference

Gay History: 30 years Of Gay Style: From Disco Chic To Hipster Bears

It used to be a tribal signal but as gay style has moved into the mainstream, the look has become harder to pin down. It’s forcing creatives to really push the boundaries if they want to make a statement

Now and then … Sylvester in the 80s and John Grant in 2015. Composite: Getty

When he was studying at Central Saint Martins, London, in the late 00s, Craig Green wrote his dissertation on the adoption of gay style subcultures by straight men. In the preceding decades, perfumed dandies, dilly boys, mods, skins, clones, new romantics, scallies, fierce vogueing divas and muscle Marys had all been sieved out of their natural habitat on to the high street for brief moments of mass consumption. But by the time Green – currently reigning menswear designer of the year at the British fashion awards – was weighing up his thesis, things had changed. The bears – hirsute, gay men – crowded on the dancefloor of London’s XXL nightclub were barely distinguishable from bearded Bon Iver fans.

A reciprocal shared wardrobe, common across menswear emerged. “When I was younger,” says Green, who was born in 1986, “what I thought of as a very gay look was really a metrosexual thing, a bit Italian, clothes a tiny bit too tight, skinny jeans, tanned, tight T-shirt, worked out. Most of the men who dressed like that were straight. Gay men all seemed to be growing beards, too. It was a less specific time. You couldn’t really tell who was who any more. Had we come to a melting point?”

From the vantage point of the DJ booth in the capital’s Horse Meat Disco, Luke Howard has been well positioned to watch the changing appearance of gay men over the past 16 years. He has noticed something similar to Green. “Lads in a straight club in Sheffield or Leeds don’t look that different from an average crowd we get at Horse Meat Disco,” he says. “These days I can barely tell the difference between straight men and gay.”

At the beginning of last year I started writing a book, Good As You, about the mainstreaming of gay pop culture as gay men headed towards complete equality in British law; roughly, a journey from Smalltown Boy to same-sex marriage that felt personal and lived, but would hopefully reflect a wider shift in the country as the gay culture has come into the light. Across the 30 years I looked at (1984-2014), the sheer number and range of signals that gay men sent out through their personal, often tribal, style fitted a wider emerging narrative, reframing the British gay man’s story from victimhood to a kind of valiant heroism. By the time I had finished the book, a moustache was no longer a moustache, it was part of a suit of no-nonsense sex armour.

UK designer Charles Jeffrey. Photograph: Dave Benett/Getty Images for Daz

“Traditionally,” says Tim Blanks, editor-at-large of Business of Fashion, “gay style was about men who took a lot of care and attention about their appearance.” The Beckhamification of culture that begot the metrosexual ended all that. The most popular gay cultural figures in its slipstream were visibly paying less attention to their clobber than the majority. For Blanks, this is even truer of gay cultural figures now. “Where is gay style now concentrated?” he asks. “[Singer] John Grant’s statement is the most chic, stylish and sophisticated art. But it isn’t visual.” Like the musician Perfume Genius, AKA Mike Hadreas, Grant favours contemplation of the interior life over the exterior.

Yet just as the gay scruff-as-cultural-archetype boomed, a raft of new figures emerged, reframing sexuality and style, both in and out of high fashion. Demna Gvasalia (Vetements, Balenciaga) and Alessandro Michele (Gucci) became the most influential designers of their era by taking – respectively – utilitarian street style and ornate embellishment down strange, pleasingly radical avenues, upsetting the strict tenets of buttoned-up, sartorial menswear. Meanwhile, American designer Rick Owens has looked to the brilliantly extreme edges of performance art, taking inspiration from the purposefully surreal, absurdist and unsettling physical disposition of David Hoyle and Christeene Vale. Things have shifted. “Oh, I could look at [queer experimentalist] Arca 24 hours a day,” says Blanks. “He is phenomenal. His look embodies transgression, intellectual depth, incredible provocation and sensuality in exactly the way Bowie’s and Lou Reed’s did when I was teenage.”

For a young breed of designers, a sense of controlled, thrilling outrage – a sense incubated in gay nightlife – is once more tickling the underbelly of fashion. “You have all those children of Kim Jones,” Blanks notes. Jones, head of menswear at Louis Vuitton, made a path from 90s London gay club culture to the apex of men’s fashion. He was a regular at 90s gay clubs from Kinky Gerlinky to Queer Nation, which he has heavily referenced in his collections. Young designers including Christopher Shannon and Bobby Abley have done their own idiosyncratic takes on that journey, too. It’s a path that can work in reverse, too. In their earliest incarnation, Take That, five straight men from the north-west, were styled to catch the eyes of ritzy gay clubbers at La Cage in Manchester.

Another who trod that path was Green, whose richly specific fashion vernacular feels technically in the lineage of Yohji Yamamoto and Issey Miyake. Then there’s JW Anderson’s fruity gender play, putting men in frilly boob tubes and thigh boots during his early years.

As Green was writing his thesis, the young designer Charles Jeffrey was being beaten up in Glasgow for his appearance. An obsessive fan of Southend gothic revivalists the Horrors, he tried to emulate their style on a pocket-money budget. “I wanted the panda eyes and the big black hair but I had to buy winklepickers from Burton and women’s blouses from Primark,” he recalls. Hair was a big thing for Jeffrey, his point of differentiation, the “this is me” moment that many men have traditionally alighted on when they adapt publicly into a chosen gay identity. “I was called a ‘faggot’ and a ‘poof’ for having bright orange hair in what I thought of as really quite an aggressive look. I didn’t see it as being gay at all and I was punched in the face in George Square for it.”

“Gay men have co-opted both masculine and feminine imagery,” says Howard, “in an either/or way as regards their choices of clothes.” This delineation has precedent. “In the late 70s, you had new romantics with their velvet and face powder, which coincided with the clone look – handlebar moustache, muir cap, leather and denim – inspired by construction workers and uniformed personnel.” He thinks the reason these polarities exist might be connected to deeper identity questions. “Boys that grow up to become gay men have often personally experienced or at least witnessed anti-gay bullying, which perhaps then becomes either externalised – I’ll be as flamboyant as I want in my attire and to hell with you all – or internalised: I’ll be more masculine-looking than the most heterosexual men.”

Clubbers at Leigh Bowery’s club Taboo in 1986. Photograph: UniversalImagesGroup/UIG via Getty Images

The digital age has complicated personal identity issues for everyone. For many gay men, the closure of bespoke social spaces, as clubs and bars shut up shop, has meant formalising an identity online. “At the Blitz and Taboo,” says Blanks of the legendary London gay clubs, “it was always about not wanting to be stuck at home.” Times change and styles change with them. “Now, it is absolutely all about staying in.” The 2017 gay male archetype could easily be the bearded, topless selfie guy, stomach clenched, puckering up in his bathroom mirror, who routinely clogs the suggestion feeds of gay Facebook and Instagram users.

“What a shame,” Blanks continues. “The notion of community used to be absolute. The internet presents a different sense of immediacy. Your desire is now more important than your style.” In this sense, the most useful arbiter of gay style may be Ernesto Sarezale, the London nightclub fixture who frequently attends, dances and leaves completely naked.

Jeffrey’s Loverboy parties have seen the emergence of a newly radical slant on the club kids who have defined gay culture. “What I love about someone like [Loverboy regular] Harry Charlesworth,” says Blanks, “is that he’s sitting dressed like a southern belle with a hairy chest that Burt Reynolds would be proud of. It’s that visual idea that ties back to the Cockettes.” The revolutionary late 60s/early 70s San Francisco drag ensemble – a template for wild expression – are a touchstone in the gay style story.

“My gay style icon would have to be Sylvester,” says Howard, about the Cockette who broke free from the underground to define the sound, look and spiritual outer edges of disco. “He used his body and the clothes he wore as a way to express his liberation from the oppressive restrictions of heteronormative culture. If only more men, gay and straight, myself included, could be more like him.”

Model wearing a Tom of Finland print swim shorts. Photograph: The Washington Post/Getty Images

Wardrobe constraints can be further complicated by the thorny issue of sex. “Dress codes are generally about getting laid,” says GQ Style’s editor, Luke Day. “The connecting tissue between all gay subcultures is that you’re generally expressing your sexual preference in some sort of way. We are trying to attract. What we put out there is what we fancy.”

“There are gay men that I like the style of,” says Green. He mentions his former stylist and collaborator Julian Ganio, the fashion director of Fantastic Man magazine. “He wears things really well. It’s quite difficult to look good in denim shorts, a bucket hat and a pair of shearling loafers, but he’s got a magic way of holding himself.”

Ganio himself doesn’t think that gay men’s style has changed much over his time. “It never really does,” he says. “In 30 years’ time, it’s more than likely the leather queens will still wear leather, the bears will wear a plaid shirt and beard and the scallies will wear Reebok Classics with a Ralph Lauren polo shirt.”

Howard thinks the real influence of gay men on mainstream style may not even be on their own kind. “Perhaps, traditionally, gay men have had more time and money to spend on their clothes and bodies, but gay men have arguably had more influence on women’s style and fashion than men’s.” The recent appointment of Edward Enninful as editor of British Vogue would suggest that. As for the question that haunts the debate of gay men and style, Ganio has a simple and succinct answer.

Why are so many gay men designers?

“Because gays are fab,” he says.

Seven key gay styles

he Village People. Photograph: PA

The clone

Origins: Tom of Finland.

Subcultural habitat: The End-Up nightclub, San Francisco.

Crossover moment: Tom Selleck as Magum PI, the Village People.

The dilly boy

Origins: The rent boys of yore plying their trade at Piccadilly Circus.

Subcultural habitat: Smoking a Virginia Slim louchely under Eros with a Jean Genet paperback.

Crossover moment: Bowie, Lou Reed, Christiane F, Suede.

The Vogue queen

Origins: Harlem Vogue balls.

Subcultural habitat: A makeshift catwalk on the Chelsea Piers; Paris Is Burning.

Crossover moment: Madonna, Malcolm McLaren, streetdance.

David Beckham’s Armani ad. Photograph: Marcus and Mert/Publicity image from PR company

The muscle Mary

Origins: YMCA locker rooms and Physique Pictorial magazine.

Subcultural habitat: Trade.

Crossover moment: Mark Wahlberg for Calvin Klein, David Gandy for Dolce and Gabbana, and David Beckham for Armani underwear.

The bear

Origins: Christopher Street.

Subcultural habitat: The King’s Arms, Soho, London.

Crossover moment: Ted, beard oil, Rag’n’Bone Man.

The scally

Origins: All Ralph Lauren concessions, department stores, the north, 80s.

Subcultural habitat: Frank Clarke’s 1988 film The Fruit Machine.

Crossover moment: The Streets, Skins, Slaves, Hollyoaks.

The Cockettes in 1972. Photograph: Robert Altman/Getty Images

The Cockette

Origins: The late-60s hippy communes of San Francisco.

Subcultural habitat: Falling over, high, on stage.

Crossover moment: Kenny Everett as Cupid Stunt, David Walliams in Little Britain.

Good As You: From Prejudice to Pride – 30 Years of Gay Britain by Paul Flynn is published by Ebury Press,

Reference

Gay History: Rules From A 1950s Gay Bar

An un-named Miami-area bar tried to make light of the hostile anti-gay atmosphere in the 1950s by posting the following set of sarcastic rules for its patrons to follow. They were published in One Magazine in 1955.

Rules and Regulations Covering The Behavior Of Our Customers:

1. First of all-remember that the customer is never right.

bostonspiritmagazine.com

2. Before drinking, each customer is to repeat six times “The customer is never right.”

nyinexile.com

3. When a customer wishes to go to the restroom–please raise hand and barmaid will direct you to proper door.

jonnodotcom.tumblr.com

4. Mother and daughter customers are not allowed to hold hands, kiss or pat each other on back. On week-ends they are not allowed to even talk to each other.

tucsongaymuseum.com

5. No after-shave lotion or talcum powder allowed on male customers.

vintageadbrowser.com

6. Lady customers may smoke only if male customer lights cigarette for them.

petermoruzzi.com

7. Lady customers may smoke only cigarettes with ivory tips, jewelled pipes or “Between the Acts” cigars.

chuckmanchicagonostalgia.wordpress.com

8. Male customers may NOT wave at friends or relatives passing by in the street because we’ll have none of those gestures in this place, my dear.

informercantile.com

9. Female customers may not talk at all–they are required to walk around the bar at least once every five minutes, dropping handkerchiefs and swooning at the far turn.

weheartit.com

10. Male customers must have hair on the chest–if you have none–please bring along another chest with the required hair on it. (We will gladly refrigerate it for you while you’re here).

serbagunamarine.com

11. Men may wear only stiff shirts and tails.

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12. Women must wear make-up-false eyelashes and beauty marks will be provided at the bar for those women customers who have just come from the beach and don’t have their make-up kits with them.

founder.com

13. Male customers are required to spit periodically. Since we have no spittoons please use the guy next to you.

14. Any male customer caught buying a beer for another male customer will have to buy a beer for the barmaid too so that the management will know that the man customer is of high moral character and not one of those characters.

Brooklyn-lobular.brooklynpubliclibrary.com

15. Please do not be offended if we do not serve you. Here are but a few of the people we could not serve if they were able to patronize us : Socrates, Wilde, Proust, Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Queen Christina, Lord Tennyson etc. and far on into the night.

queermusicheritage.org

Reference

Straight Guys Reveal Why They Love Bottoming. NSFW

One straight guy said: ‘[It] really makes a man out of you’

Josephrucker | Instagram

More and more straight men are into bottoming, at least according to one prominent sexpert.

It’s a phenomenon known as pegging and it’s the idea of a woman performing anal sex on a man, usually with a dildo or strap-on.

Sex columnist Tracey Cox says her blog posts about anal play get the most clicks out of any other posts.

‘Pegging was the hottest sex trend in 2016,’ she wrote. ‘And far from being a fad, is fast becoming something most couples try at least once.’

‘I remember writing about pegging about 20 years ago and everyone’s reaction was “What! My boyfriend/husband’s not gay, why the hell would he want me to do that to him?”‘

But a recent thread on Reddit is helping to dispel myths about straight men liking anal pleasure.

The thread starts off with a straight guy asking for tips on how to bottom.

He writes: ‘I just found out my girlfriend plans on pegging me tomorrow.

‘I can’t really say no since I promised her a weekend of submission, allowing to indulge in things like spanking, foot worship and forced nudity, but this is something new,’ he said.

He eventually asks: ‘So what does it feel like?

One user responds: ‘As someone whose girlfriend pegs him VERY regularly, pushing out makes it feel even better, especially when you’re near orgasm. Also, the usual advice: LUBE, LUBE, AND MORE LUBE.’

Another warned: ‘Be careful, dude.

‘This is probably the one time you don’t want to be hyper-masculine. If you feel pain, then speak-up,’ he said.

‘Getting pegged really makes a man out of you’

Sunday World recently asked their straight male readers if they’d ever tried pegging and found some surprising answers.

27-year-old man, with the pseudonym Kamogelo said: ‘I told her [his girlfriend] I wanted to be penetrated with a dildo and when she did it, I reached climax in the most satisfactory manner.

‘I have never felt like that before; it was amazing,’ he said.

Similarly, PopBuzz interviewed 10 straight guys about their bottoming fantasies.

Devin from Detroit said: ‘When I get pegged by my wife, it allows me to better understand what it is like for her when she sits on top of me. And so once a month, she puts on her piece and I ride her for a little bit.’

Brad from Chicago said: ‘Getting pegged really makes a man out of you.

He continued: ‘We first started out with a four inch strap on… and then a six inch. I’m happy to report that today, we are up to a full 10 inches. Our goal for the new year is 12 inches! Soon, I’ll be a power bottom!’

Kent from Santa Fe said: ‘One night when I was drunk, I talked to my girlfriend about it. Before I knew it, I was bouncing on it like it was some kind of toy.’

Are you a straight guy who enjoys pegging?

Gay History: 15 Ways To Spot A Lesbian According To Some Really Old Medical Journals

Dell Richards’ book “Lesbian Lists,” published in 1990, contains “a look at lesbian culture, history, and personalities,” through various lists like “19 Lesbian Novelists” and “14 Cult Films With Lesbian Characters.” These lists are both entertaining and educational.

One of the lists is entitled “20 Turn-of-the-Century “Ways to Tell” if a Girl Would Become Gay or if a Woman Was a Lesbian — according to the Medical Journals of the Day.” The list offers an opportunity for us to look back on the silly assholes of Medical History who sought to quell the viral nature of young madiens’ ripe homosexuality by educating the public regarding how to spot lesbians and subsequently convert or destroy them. You never know when a lesbian is in your neighborhood, driving their car down your street, or shopping next to you at the grocery store.

We have selected 15 of the items from this list to share with you today and have illustrated these items with helpful photographs. As you can see, they were clearly completely right about everything and In parentheses you will find the year in which the cited medical journal was printed.

(15 Turn-of-the-Century “Ways to Tell” if a Girl Would Become Gay or if a Woman Was a Lesbian — According to the Medical Journals of the Day)

(via Lesbian Lists:A look at Lesbian culture, history and personalities by Dell Richards, 1990)

1. Smokes cigarettes in public. (1890)

confirmed lesbian julie goldman smoking cigarettes at poolside

2. Has a capacity for athletics and an incapacity for needlework and other domestic occupations. (1890)

natasha kai, confirmed lesbian with athletic capacities, screams “I hate needlepoint” on a soccer field

3. “Tomboy Habits” (1895)

autostraddle editor-in-chief riese’s girlfriend (a confirmed homosexual) participating in carpentry, a certified tomboy habit

4. Dresses in Boys’ Clothing (1895)

kim stolz, confirmed lesbian, wearing boys’ clothing on a reality television program. after the program, she continued to wear boys’ clothing in other contexts while romancing women of the same sex.

5. Abandons Dolls and Girlfriends for Marbles and Masculine Games (1895)

although these women may not be have been lesbians before this photograph was captured, this riveting game of marbles will surely transform them into lesbians

6. Prefers the Laboratory to the Nursery (1900)

fictional confirmed lesbian lexy is a doctor on the television program “Lip Service,” which requires the laboratory. furthermore, she does not have children or a nursery.

7. Goes to Bars (1900)

“gimme sugar” was a reality television program about lesbians who went to bars and also worked in bars, and yelled at each other.

8. Is Anti-Social (1900)

we are confident that there is a lesbian hiding behind this book

9. Has a firmness to her walk, a long step, and a rather heavy timbre to her voice. (1900)

kd lang, actual lesbian, records musical cds featuring her timbered voice

10. Talks loud and uses slang. (1900)

in this picture, confirmed lesbian sandra bernhard is swearing loudly using slang, probably slang for a vagina

11. Has no breasts to speak of (1900)

shane, confirmed lesbian, is not speaking of her breasts

12. Is square-shouldered and solid (1900)

skyler cooper has shoulders for days, likes girls

13. Has a strong, self-assured look in her eye (1910)

jessica clark, confirmed lesbian, is seducing you with her eyeballs

lesbian jenny shimizu seduced angelina jolie with these eyeballs

14. Shows mental arrogance and is abnormally deficient in natural female shyness (1910)

this photograph is self-explanatory

15. Has intellectual attributes usually associated with men – an acuteness of comprehension and lucid objectivity (1910)

confirmed lesbian rachel maddow hosts an acute and lucid television program

In conclusion, it would seem that the doctors of the 19th century were 100% correct when they made these scientific determinations. I wish you all luck in identifying and executing lesbians in your neighborhood as you see fit.

Reference

Gay History: The ”Gay Bob” Doll. NSFW

Gay Bob is a doll created in 1977. It was billed as the world’s first openly gay doll. Bob was created by former advertising executive Harvey Rosenberg and marketed through his company, Gizmo Development. Gay Bob was bestowed an Esquire magazine “Dubious Achievement Award” for 1978.

Bob stands 13 inches tall and came wearing a flannel shirt, tight jeans and cowboy boots. He had one ear pierced. Bob’s box was shaped like a closet and included a catalog from which consumers could order additional outfits. Creator Rosenberg described the doll as resembling a cross between Paul Newman and Robert Redford. Bob is anatomically correct.

The Story Behind Gay Bob, the World’s First Out-And-Proud Doll

He debuted in the ’70s, to both acclaim and outrage.

“IT’S ANOTHER EVIDENCE OF THE desperation the homosexual campaign has reached in its effort to put homosexual lifestyle, which is a deathstyle, across to the American people.”

A lobby group called Protect America’s Children made this statement in 1978—about a doll.

That year, the release of Gay Bob, billed as the world’s first openly gay doll, caused a minor sensation. Enraged consumers complained that a toy with a homosexual backstory would lead to other ”disgusting” dolls like “Priscilla the Prostitute” and “Danny the Dope Pusher.” Esquire awarded Gay Bob its “Dubious Achievement Award.” And anti-gay organizations across the United States blustered.

Gay Bob, who was meant to resemble a cross between Robert Redford and Paul Newman, was blond, with a flannel shirt, tight jeans, and one pierced ear. The doll gave anti-gay organizations plenty to fear; intrinsic within it was a celebration of gay identity, evidenced by Gay Bob’s programmed speech. “Gay people,” Bob said, “are no different than straight people… if everyone came ‘out of their closets’ there wouldn’t be so many angry, frustrated, frightened people.”

In a cheeky move, the box in which Gay Bob was packaged came in the outline of a closet, so that when he left his box, he was literally coming out of the closet. Gay Bob explained: “It’s not easy to be honest about what you are — in fact it takes a great deal of courage… But remember if Gay Bob has the courage to come out his closet, so can you.”

A 1978 advertisement for the Gay Bob Doll (OE Wolf /CC By NB-2.0)

The affirming message was no accident. The doll’s creator, Harvey Rosenberg, a former advertising executive who developed marketing campaigns for various corporations, wanted Gay Bob to “liberate” men from “traditional sexual roles.” He created the doll soon after a series of shocks rocked his life: in quick succession, his marriage fell apart and his mother became seriously ill. He decided that his next projects would need to be of great personal significance.

Though Gay Bob was certainly humorous—the doll was designed to be anatomically correct, and prominent gay activists such as Bruce Voeller told reporters that people should “deal with [the doll] lightly and enjoy it”—Rosenberg’s intentions seem to have been sincere. When asked why he would pour $10,000 of his money into the Gay Bob’s production, he replied, “we had something to learn from the gay movement, just like we did from the black civil rights movement and the women’s movement, and that is having the courage to stand up and say ‘I have a right to be what I am.’”

When Gay Bob hit stores in 1978, that right to be gay and equal was once again under attack, most notably from Anita Bryant, a singer and well-known brand ambassador who mobilized opposition to a Dade County, Florida ordinance that outlawed discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Fixating on its impact on public schools, Bryant claimed that the existence of LGBT school teachers would threaten the well-being of local students. “Homosexuals will recruit our children,” she warned. “They will use money, drugs, alcohol, any means to get what they want.” In June 1977, she had the rule repealed, and her anti-gay crusade—which gained widespread media attention—sparked similar ventures in Minnesota, Oregon, Kansas, and California.

Gay Bob, which sold 2,000 copies in its first two months, appeared in the heat of these political battles. It was no real flashpoint of its own, but it served as a humorous trophy—and a sign of changing times—for those fighting against Bryant.

Initially sold through mail-order ads in gay-themed magazines, Gay Bob soon expanded into boutique stores in New York and San Francisco. Rosenberg even pitched it to major department store chains, one of which liked the idea (but ultimately did not purchase it). And, it turns out, those consumers who feared the introduction of more “disgusting” dolls were partially correct—Rosenberg soon gave Gay Bob a family of his own, with brothers Marty Macho, Executive Eddie, Anxious Al, and Straight Steve (who lived in the suburbs and wore blue suits), and sisters Fashionable Fran, Liberated Libby, and Nervous Nelly. 

There is currently one for sale on Ebay for $293.00!

References