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60 and Gay

60 in 2012?


Like most of us Brits I was really chuffed to hear that London had won the competition to stage the Olympic Games in 2012. But then, The Awful Truth dawned. In 2012? Oh my God! I'll be 60 years old then! A 60 year old gay man. A thought I never even began to consider when, years ago, as a young man I started to express my life as that of a gay man. After all, why would I? Think of "gay" then, and I suppose you always thought of "young" at the same time. Well, I did. However, three things changed my thinking. One was that, like it or not, I was getting older. The second was a wonderful novel I read called "A Time to Live," written by Jim Brogan, a story about a group of more senior gay men in San Francisco coming to grips with getting older. And the third was when I fell in love with George, my partner. We met when I was 40 and he was a wonderfully young-at-heart 63. "Gays will never get married," he said, "at least, not in our lifetime." Well, he was partly right; he died eight years ago, and yet, here in the UK, the bill to legalise civil partnerships between gay men is now probably only months away from becoming law.

All this made me think about how life for gay men in this country has changed in my lifetime. The famous Wolfenden Report, relentless pressure from CHE (the Campaign for Homosexual Equality) - and the release of that ground-breaking movie, "Victim," with Dirk Bogarde committing that hitherto ultimate sin for a leading actor - playing a sympathetic gay character. Result? In 1967 the British Government finally woke up and partially decriminalised homosexuality. Looking back, however, it seems to have been a classically British fudge, too much of a compromise. And yet, seen in the context of its time it was a great step forward.

As for me, however, at the age of 15, I would have to wait another six years before I was truly "legal."

Over the ensuing years we saw gay groups being formed around the country, and, just as important, the growth of the gay press. From lurking in the shadows, we gays were now out, and here to stay.

But then – HIV and AIDS. And as if that were not enough to contend with, we in the UK were saddled with the Conservative government's infamous Section 28. HIV and AIDS are still with us, and wiping out millions of people. And it took years before Section 28 was confined to the parliamentary rubbish bin. Will church leaders and politicians never learn?

Here, at least, in this country, a change of government has begun to bring about a change of attitude to us gays. In areas like the armed forces, in particular.

So, 2012. Seven years away. What further changes would this particular gay man like to see? Let me confine my wish list to just two.
  1. A cure for HIV/AIDS. Fat chance, say the cynics. Why not, say I. Polio has been eradicated, why not AIDS? Imagine the feeling when you switch on the television news, and hear about that news, the news you've been waiting for all these years! (As the song says, "If you don’t have a dream, how are you going to have a dream come true?")

  2. My other wish? That religious fundamentalism is gone forever, and replaced by moderation and tolerance. Where faith and love are more important than dogma and narrowness of mind.
Perhaps the bombs that hit the innocent commuters of London the day after the Olympic choice of the UK capital was announced will be the time when people will say "Enough is enough."

Perhaps. But then, reasonable thinkers have been saying this kind of thing for centuries. So, how different will 2012 be? If it is, then I hope I am around to experience it.

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