Monday, 28 December 2009

The real heroes of LGBT liberation

Over at Pink News, Peter Tatchell (a hero of mine) reminds us that Quentin Crisp had feet of clay. He did not support LGBT liberation in the 60s and 70s, and wanted to be "the only gay in the village"; he also made that stupid comment about AIDS. He had clearly internalised the homophobia of those around him.

On the other hand, a friend of a friend called him up when he was in New York, and Quentin Crisp invited him round for tea, and they spent about an hour chatting; I think my friend's friend found him charming.

Peter Tatchell continues:
The true icons and pioneers of the modern British gay community are heroes like Allan Horsfall and Antony Grey. They were the driving forces of the first gay rights organisations in Britain – the North West Homosexual Law Reform Committee set up in 1964 and the Homosexual Law Reform Society, established earlier in 1958. These two men, who are still alive and have never received the public recognition they deserve, have done far more for gay dignity and advancement than Quentin Crisp.

Crisp is a pale shadow of US gay rights trailblazers like Harry Hay, Frank Kameny, Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon.
So yes, let's celebrate the real heroes and heroines of LGBT liberation:


  1. The trouble with Tatchell (I've had dinner with him btw, so am in a position to know) is that he has absolutely no sense of humour. He lives in a Manichaean world of terrifyingly complete ideological certainty. He has done a very great deal of excellent work for which he deserves much credit; but he's also frighteningly naive, especially about home-grown islamists, who after all are no friends of homosexuals. (In astrological terms he is, ironically, powerfully Uranian!)

  2. Well it takes all sorts to make a world.

    Maybe Quentin Crisp was trying to be ironic - he certainly had a flair for it. And he will be neither the first nor the last gay person to regret the days when being gay was edgy and transgressive. One only has to behold the phenomenon of "Gay Shame" (ironic antidote to Pride) to realise this.

  3. Absolutely. *Of course* Crisp was being ironic, taking the piss out of the kind of decorous speech-codes which minorities tend to erect. I must prefer Gore Vidal's learned, aristocratic style of being-a-homosexual[ist]: wide reading, a certain ironic distance, self-reliance and intellectual independence, and a determination to say whatever he damn well pleases. (I cheered when he called Edmund White 'a vulgar fag author' (!), because that's exactly what the infintely-less-talented-than-Vidal White is, as well as being very amusing.)