Gentlemen may prance but not dance

bright young things stephen tennant wilsford
Zita Jungman, William Walton, Cecil Beaton, Stephen Tennant, Georgia Sitwell, Teresa Jungman, and Rex Whistler - 1927.

How is one to find the perfect young man, either they seem to be half-witted, or half-baked, or absolute sinks of vice or else actively dirty… All very difficult.

Nancy Mitford, letter to her brother Tom, June 1928

I’m currently reading a book on those Bright Young People, that 1920s/30s group of party loving extroverts:

Homosexuality was as characteristic of the Bright Young People as a cloche hat, or an outsize party invitation. No English youth movement, it is safe to say, has ever contained such a high proportion of homosexuals or – in an age when these activities were still illegal – been so indulgent of their behaviour. There were several reasons for the irretrievable air of campness with which the average Bright Young entertainment of the 1920s was riotously invested, symbolised, perhaps, by the unwritten law of the Oxford Hypocrites Club that ‘Gentlemen may prance but not dance’. On the one hand the movement’s constituency extended deep into the bohemian sub-world in which homosexuality had immemorially flourished. On the other, most male Bright Young People were recruited from English public schools, where homosexuality, if not tolerated by vigilant head-masters, was endemically present among the pupils. Looking back on her teenage years, Jessica Mitford noted that ‘nearly every English boy I knew had a terrific exposure to homosexuality… Some stuck to it, some didn’t, but nobody paid much attention either way, as I recall…’

To this already charged atmosphere could be added the tendency of many of the era’s young men to pass through a homosexual ‘stage’ before settling down into heterosexual marriage. Evelyn Waugh, for example, went through a violent gay phase at Oxford before setting his cap, unsuccessfully, with Olivia Plunket Greene.

Bright Young homosexuality, consequently, took in a variety of forms: predatory career homosexuals; nervously experimental young men; Wilde-era survivors; many more besides. At its core lay a group of orchidaceous Etonians – Eton was perhaps the most openly gay school of the era – with an insider’s knowledge of each other’s characteristics and peccadilloes. When Tom Mitford tried to warn his sister Nancy off Hamish Erskine, it was because he himself had had an affair with Erskine at Eton and knew his unreliability at first hand.

Source: Bright Young People: The Rise & Fall of a Generation 1918-1940, by D J Taylor

There is a whole chapter on the subject of ‘Gay Young People’ which makes interesting reading.

stephen tennant cecil beaton bright young people
Cecil Beaton (L) and Stephen Tennant (R)




Talk about a ‘boy next door’ face…

anthony perkins

anthony perkins

anthony perkins

anthony perkins

anthony perkins

If I didn’t have so much doughnut and alcohol induced fat on me – I might have a physique like that…

Anthony Perkins born 4 April 1932 (d. 1992)

Actor Anthony Perkins is best known for his role as Norman Bates in the classic Hitchcock thriller Psycho (1960).

He made his first film in 1953 and was Oscar nominated for his second film Friendly Persuasion (1956). Many felt he should have been nominated for Psycho, and would have been offered better roles as a result. He appeared in a number of acclaimed roles in films such as Catch-22, (1970), The Trial and Murder On the Orient Express (1975) and on Broadway. But his later career saw him doing mostly made-for-TV movies and Psycho sequels. His persona as an actor was frail, delicate and agitated, and this seems to have reflected his actual nervousness.

Primarily homosexual, Perkins had a number of relationships with men in the 1950s and 60s, including Tab Hunter, writer/model/actor Alan Helms, Rudolph Nureyev and dancer/choreographer Grover Dale, with whom he had a six year relationship prior to his marriage. Perkins may have married for fear of an expose of his homosexuality in Confidential magazine – his wife, Berry Berenson was sixteen years his junior. Dale also married, 10 days before Perkins. Perkins and Berry had two sons, Osgood (Oz) and Elvis.

Anthony Perkins died from an AIDS related illness in 1992.

As a further tragic footnote, his widow Berry Berenson was a passenger on American Airlines Flight 11, the flight that was hijacked and crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001.

Source: Gay For Today

Gareth Thomas comes out of the closet

[tweetmeme source=”hellomilo”]

One of the most high profile gay sportsman to come out of the closet in recent years is Gareth Thomas, former Wales and Lions captain. News began breaking publicly in the early hours of today.

Former Wales and Lions captain Gareth Thomas has broken one of the major taboos that surround sport by revealing he is gay.

The 35-year-old joins stars like basketball’s John Amaechi and hurling’s Donal Og Cusack who have come out.

“Just because you are gay, it doesn’t mean you fancy every man who walks the planet,” Thomas told the Daily Mail.

“I don’t want to be known as a gay rugby player. I am a rugby player first and foremost. I am a man.”

Source: BBC Sport

Thomas, Wales’ most-capped player, said it had been “really tough” hiding his sexuality, but hoped coming out would help future generations of rugby players.

He said his close family and friends had accepted his decision and would continue to support him. The 35-year-old said he had no plans to launch a “crusade” but wanted to send a “positive message” to other gay people.

Thomas, who has 100 international caps, captained Wales in 2005 to their first Grand Slam victory since 1978 and led the British Lions tour of New Zealand later that year.

Source: Times Online

This is not big news – and it is big news.

It is not big news because there are, literally, millions of gay people – both here in the UK and everywhere else. It’s not a lifestyle choice. Don’t ever fool yourself on that count. It isn’t.

It is big news because high profile sportsmen coming out as gay is still all too rare. Much of this is rooted in the media of the 1950s-80s, where gay men have too often been portrayed as weak, unmanly, girly, etc. Some are. Heck – some perfectly straight men are. But the convenient stereotype was perpetuated by the media and entertainment industries for all it was worth for generations. It was always, ultimately, a negative stereotype – regardless of how much the person made you laugh.

Think back a few thousand years to the Sacred Band of Thebes. I don’t think you’d find them to be weak. But those representations of gay men aren’t as convenient to use as they don’t fit the mould.

Of course he will face homophobia, hate mail and all the rest of it. There are a lot of people out there too mind-numbingly stupid, too lobotomised either by their religion or their hypocrisy-ridden ‘family values’ mindset that will condemn him. But these people are becoming more and more irrelevant. They’re now at the margins. Of course, such people can identify with the backward rulers of Uganda, other parts of Africa and also the Middle East, where homophobia is state endorsed. To those that share their backward, stone age mindset – take a good long look at yourself and the people that identify with your mindset.

Anyway, less vitriol and more celebration. Is good news. And as I was born in Wales (which technically makes me a Welshman??!) I’m doubly pleased.🙂

A more detailed biopic of Gareth Thomas on the blog Gay for Today.

PS This story also reminds me of the coming out of the army guy I blogged about a while back.

Adam and Steve through the ages

Close relationships with those of our own sex, regardless of intensity or on which part of the spectrum they exist, are special.

I came across these pictures on Flickr which I liked. They are vintage photos, ostensibly of gay couples from the last couple of hundred years.

100+ photos in slideshow here:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

To see them in higher quality, view the screenshow directly from flickr.