On the weekend ABC TV showed the climactic [in more ways than 1] episode of Last Tango in Halifax; a UK sitcom with the unpleasantest grandmother, the most gay-averse & insensitive creature. At her wedding party, her daughter makes up with her UK-African girlfriend; they get up & dance then kiss. The camera sweeps round the room, noting surprised, puzzled & one screamingly funny, lingering look of growing erotic arousal among the males.
The dynamic buried within the situation was that we make a statement about our sexual reality, and the world notes it in varying degrees of intelligence & empathy. Graham Greene’s work Stamboul Train develops the persona of a lesbian journo who drunkenly cultivates a series of women companions. At the end of the story she has found a new partner, more in need of her help than the previous one, who goes straight. She makes a curious statement that dissolves the erotic content of such relationships, and generally reduces lesbian coupling to that of companions.
I returned, as frequently I do, to Manguel’s & Stephenson’s flamingo anthology of Gay Literature, In Another Part of the Forest; there was William Trevor’s story about boarding school & after: Torridge. Manguel’s introduction made the vital point that as soon as we discover our apartness from heterosexual reality we begin to account for it.
In the William Trevor story Torridge like the solitary hero of Gore Vidal’s story City & the Pillar, returns to the people with whom he interacted during his adolescence. The stories perform a before & after: there is the naive adolescence & the hard won experience of adulthood. In Trevor’s story, it becomes a harsh revelation during an annual get together dinner, at which he reveals the other side to conventional boarding school experience. Rejected by his classmates, all of whom engage in erotic/romantic experiences with older boys, Torridge joins a group of rejects, all of whom are secretly gay.
Like the woman companion in Greene’s Stamboul Train, who turns her back on a lesbian past, the boarding school boys, tarts with their elders, grow up to marry & have children, while Torridge takes the gay lifestyle seriously. Trevor’s story ends with multiple cries for social decorum to be re-established. Clearly herero & homo worlds do not collide or significantly connect. Remove the stigma of illegality and there is little impact by the majority on the minority. As Manguel notes in the introduction, the larger world appropriates as it sees fit, removing stigma where convenient. As a result, Da Vinci becomes an important cultural monument, his homosexuality is rarely acknowledged.