Sunday, 23 June 2013

1 Queercore, MoQuo + the role of the gay anthem

1. I've read a bit about Queercore, and LGBT hip-hop, part of the radical queer underground music scene and subculture. As a DJ, where do you see yourself in this ?

As a musical genre, Queercore in part distinguishes itself through lyrics which explore themes of prejudice, sexual + gender identity and, more generally, offer a critique of society, often expressed in a light-hearted way.

My own interest in this -as a queer DJ- is primarily in the concept of the gay anthem, as described by Simon Gage, Lisa Edwards + Howard Wilmot in the 2002 publication 'Queer - The ULTIMATE user's guide' in which the criteria + themes of the gay anthem are explored. In the book, the following ten main themes are listed:

(1) Big-voiced divas with powerful, uncompromising voices, singing songs about: (2) Overcoming hardship in love often with a narrative of a wronged lover who comes back stronger than before; (3) Solidarity in the form of songs about coming together; (4) Overcoming adversity by throwing care + caution to the wind; (5) Hard-won self esteem where the theme is fighting through oppression, darkness or fear to gain freedom or self esteem; (6) Celebrating unashamed sexuality through transcending cultural shame to celebrate one's sexual nature; (7) Searching for acceptance by envisaging a promised land where the dream of acceptance, belonging + hope lives; (8) A torch song for the world weary where the narrative is about being used, abused and surviving to tell the tale of lament; (9) The unashamed pledge tinged with tragedy with tales of not giving up despite seemingly insurmountable odds; and (10) Uncompromising self affirmation + an absolute refusal to apologise: "I am what I am and what I am needs no excuses..."

Consequently, when we see straight couples walk into our queer clubs, shake their heads + openly mock what they see or hear, we should not -from a queer activism viewpoint- apologise to the heterosexual majority, replace the DJ, dilute the music policy and replace it with a "more popular" selection of "contemporary pop and r'n'b.

January 2012 (2)

This is my response to Paul's email [see January 2012 (1)] + letter of resignation from the York Pride committee:

"Hi All

After giving the matter very serious and thoughtful consideration over the last few days, I have decided to stand down from my position on the York Pride organising committee.

I've been involved in gay politics and the Pride movement for almost 30 years - becoming a member of the Management Committee of the London Gay Teenage Group & joining the Working Group of the Lesbian & Gay Youth Movement in 1984, when I was 19. The following year, I became Co-Editor of the Lesbian & Gay Youth Magazine and Resident DJ at the Creche Club - a fundraiser for the Lesbian & Gay Youth Movement - in the London Lesbian & Gay Centre.

As you know, in more recent years, I've become a member of the York LGBT Forum and have contributed towards 3 Pride events, as well as Resident DJ at both Poppycock & OUTrageous.

I've always been a vocal champion of queer history and popular culture and will continue to be so. However, I no longer feel that York Pride is the appropriate forum for me to do so.

I'm no stranger to being openly mocked by straight couples and have never accepted that the (generally heterosexual) majority should dictate to the LGBT minority how should express our sexuality - whether in bed, in the street or on the dancefloor. Nor that we should become so socialised into accepting their viewpoints & opinions that we ourselves deny the provenance of our own history and risk diluting the unique qualities of our queer culture.

I believe that if I were to continue to attend, and to express my views openly & frankly, it would inevitably lead to disagreement & altercation and upset the harmony & consensus of the group.

As such, I've decided not to attend any further Pride officer meetings or events.

For the time being, I intend to continue in my role as Vice-Chair of the wider LGBT Forum.

I'd like to thank you all for the support and friendship you have shown me over the last few years. I've had some great times and my decision to step down should not be seen as having any reflection on any of you individually.

I'd like to make some space on my laptop for other projects I'm working on, so if any of you would like any particular Pride logos or designs, please let me know a.s.a.p.

I wish you all the best for the future

Stereo-typically yours

Bootsy x"

January 2012 (1)

Here is the original email from January 2012 which resulted in my removal as co-resident DJ @OUTrageous in York + which ultimately led to my decision to resign from York Pride:

"Hi guys,

Thank you for accepting my friend request. I wanted to join the group as I fully support what you're doing for York however I have a problem I wanted to discuss. I went on Friday to Outrageous at Vanity and I'm sorry to say was very disappointed with the djing. I don't want to sound harsh but I went with a group of friends, some gay and some straight and within a couple of hours all had left because of the appalling music selection. I know it's a LGBT event but constantly playing Steps, S Club, Queen and all the stereotypical gay anthems is a disservice to the diverse group who turned out on the night. I went over several times and tried to make friends with the guys in the box and made suggestions of more up-to-date stuff: Beyonce, Rihanna, Gaga, Black Eyed Peas, Kelly Rowland etc but once one track had been played - and the dancefloor noticeably livened up - it was back to the same old cliches. Not only that but tracks skipped, several times the sound was dropped mid-song, and tracks were repeated. More than once I glanced towards the entrance to see straight couples walk in and shake their heads or openly mock what they saw and I couldn't blame them. Now there were a very vocal minority who clearly wanted gay anthems all night but many many more (some of whom I spoke to)were not being catered for.

I don't want to sound like I've got an axe to grind or I know best (I've only dj'd at my sisters wedding but I do go out in York, Leeds and Manchester a lot) in fact I support what you guys are doing and think that Outrageous has the potential to be really great, and there was certainly enough of a crowd to keep it going, but I think the music needs to be revamped.. When I think back to the jukebox selections at Little John these gay anthems were far less popular than current pop and r'n'b.

Far be it from me to complain and not suggest a solution. If you'd let me have a go as guest dj I guarantee I could improve the experience on the night. I have no wish to hijack Outrageous or promote my ego, I don't want paid, I don't want to do it and say 'I told you so.' I do want to have fun and get the room on their feet. Give me a chance to work with you and help out, I promise to do my best and if you don't like my ideas and song choices, well, it's your dj equipment I'll just step down.

I hope you'll consider what I'm saying in the spirit that I mean to say it. Once again I do appreciate the effort that something like this must take to organise I just think it's important and the music should enhance the experience not be a joke that reflects poorly on our community. I look forward to talking to you.

All the best,


10 questions from Burkely Herman (@burkelyh)

10 questions about #gayshame from Burkely Herman. I will answer each question in turn within a separate blog post. You can follow Burkely on twitter @burkelyh

1. I've read a bit about Queercore, and LGBT hip-hop, part of the radical queer underground music scene and subculture. As a DJ, where do you see yourself in this music scene?

2. What is your opinion of the mainstream LGBT movement (Gay Inc.)?

3 Is the rejection of support by Gay Inc. for gay whistleblower Bradley Manning who leaked thousands of documents to Wikileaks revealing war crimes and other dirty dealings relevant to discussion about Gay Shame and mainstream gay culture?

4. You've said that 'gay pride' is about being proud of sexual intercourse and sexual acts between men. Would you say this is the same for women and those of other genders?

5. What part of queer identity and history in your view is being lost in 'gay pride'?

6. Gay blogger and activist Glenn Greenwald wrote in March 2013, in a column for The Guardian that “allowing same-sex couples to marry doesn't undermine oligarchs, the National Security State, or the wildly unequal distribution of financial and political power” and the next month he added to this in another column noting that “it seems because the cause of gay equality poses no real threat to elite factions or to how political and economic power in the US are distributed. If anything, it bolsters those power structures.” Would you say this is in line with your criticism of 'gay pride' and mainstream gay culture? If so, what would you add to it?

7. Gay Shame, a movement that proposed a radical alternative to the commercialization of "gay pride" and mainstream gay culture which spread to numerous cities across the world starting in Brooklyn, New York in 1998, had its last chapter close in San Francisco in 2012. Your blogspot says that “Gay Shame is about recognising that the socialisation of LGBT people and the assimilation of queer culture into the mainstream has a price. It is also a recognition that "gay pride" as we now know it is more about the pink pound, spending power and consumer unity than it is about queer mutiny and fighting for those who are marginalised by society.” Do you see your blog as a continuation of the ideas of SF Gay Shame and ideas of other chapters? Can you elaborate about the on what you mean by the “assimilation of queer culture into the mainstream” and by “queer mutiny”?

8. On twitter, someone told me that radical queer activists are anti-equality and part of an 'identity movement.' Others criticize radicals for saying marriage is oppression, as they argue that gay marriage is a form of liberation. What is your response to these criticisms?

9. Some of the people that have retweeted my article about the corporatization of gay pride, have been involved with the Occupy Movement. Do you think that this social movement will bring new life to Gay Shame and other radical efforts?

10. What can people reading this interview do to spread the message?

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Where it began...

I first came across the concept of Gay Shame around the time that I made the decision to resign from York Gay Pride following ideological disagreements.

Essentially, I was asked to stand down as co-resident DJ from a Pride fundraising night following observations that the music I was playing was too loud, too camp + too stereotypically gay.

Apparently, my selection of music (which I call  MoQuo - or music of queer origin - that is music written, performed, produced, championed + celebrated by queer people) was at risk of alienating heterosexual couples -who appeared to have scant regard for queer identity, a lack of respect for queer cultural history and little understanding of queer popular culture- along with a cohort of younger gay men who are regarded as the 'cash queers' of the Pride movement.

The belief was that as these two demographic groups represented a sizeable proportion of the fundraising income stream, watering down the content of the night, so that it was no longer at risk of appearing too camp or too stereotypically gay, would increase trade + put more £ in the Pride coffers. The music became fixated upon contemporary r'n'b (or repetitive 'n' bland as I prefer to describe it), the queer identity of the night  became diluted + queer friends of mine of a similar age stopped attending.

After several months of running the night on this basis, the then resident DJ (for whom I have great respect + high regard) began camping it up (the music, that is) + asking potential punters for nominations for the new camper playlist.

At the time, I was running an alternative night called Poppycock (taglines 'Loud + Proud + stereotypically Gay since 2009' / "It's poppy. It's cocky. And a bit gay.") Some of the proceeds of this night went to the York LGBT Forum + North Yorkshire Aids Action.

My argument at the time was that the concept of 'Gay Pride' was not simply about being proud to suck cock or fuck men -although we clearly shouldn't be ashamed of these activities- but that we should be proud to exhibit, display and celebrate our queer cultural identity + history.

OUTrageous + Poppycock both closed  in July 2013.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Welcome to Gay Shame

What is Gay Shame?

Gay Shame is about recognising that the socialisation of LGBT people and the assimilation of queer culture into the mainstream has a price.  It is also a recognition that "gay pride" as we now know it is more about the pink pound, spending power and consumer unity than it is about queer mutiny and fighting for those who are marginalised by society. 

During the course of this blog I shall be talking about what we have lost socially and culturally in our quest for acceptance and respectability. 

Join me as I explore the dissonance between acceptability and unique cultural identity.

Along the way I hope to make you laugh, cry and shout out with anger.

I welcome feedback, and I can be contact via the contact me page of this blog.

Who Am I?

I am David Lewis -aka Deejay Bootsy- a 49 year old non-conforming queer man who openly challenges convention, orthodoxy + mainstream opinion.

I went on my first Gay Pride march in 1984 at age 19. The age of consent for gay men at the time was 21 and the march  itself was no parade, carnival or Mardi gras. The tone of the march was angry + the model one of civil disobedience + non-violent direct action. As a demonstration of anger at unfair treatment + protest against inequality of opportunity, it displayed strength through solidarity.

In the same year, I became a member of the management committee of the London Gay Teenage Group, a member of the working group of the Lesbian + Gay Youth Movement and co-editor of the Lesbian + Gay Youth Magazine.

Over the following years + decades, I saw the commercial gay scene -never shy of an opportunity to make money- gradually take over London Gay Pride and transform it from a march into a parade, and from a protest into a party. The inevitable imposition of an entrance fee marked the point at which I lost interest in these commercially sponsored corporate shindigs which have essentially become a celebration of the strength of the so-called Pink Pound.

On arriving in York in 2008, I joined the York LGBT Forum and discovered that York's LGBT communities -through the Forum- still organised a community focused event which was free and celebrated local talent, rather than the Z list celebrities + runners up from prime time TV talent(less) competitions.

It was the first of three York Pride events I helped organised, before resigning from the committee in early 2012.

I have been a queer deejay since 1985, when I helped launch the Creche Club in the London Lesbian + Gay Centre, as a fundraiser for the national Lesbian + Gay Youth Movement. In 1987, I won the Clash of the Titans DJ mixing competition ('a night of rivalry on the wheels of steel') at the Limelight club in London and secured a residency there at L'homme - a weekly gay club night run by queer club promoters Steve Swindells + Kevin Millens. I went on to take up residency at  Millionaires (aka Millies) in Edinburgh - t
he infamous Edinburgh late night speakeasy - and have played in some of the queerest bars + clubs in London, Edinburgh, Glasgow and York.

I was vice chair of the York LGBT Forum 2010 -2012 and I am currently the Forum's fundraising + publicity officer  and a member of the LGBTQ Communities of  Identity + Wellbeing sub-group.

You can also follow me on twitter at: @swallowourpride.