Out in The City
Older gay friends eulogise about the ‘good old days’. When, in London, the constabulary spent themselves, zealously pursuing homosexuals to notch up Victorian convictions that were easily prosecuted in courts that were presided over by public schoolboys who really did know better but who could do no better than hand out jail terms. There was a secret underground of gay networking and basement clubs with coded, locked door-knocks and eye-slits to give the would-be entrant the once over. There was a gay language, polari and blackmail was rife. The secrecy was exciting. That is what those 1960s swingers used to say and the survivors still do.
But when anyone goes banging on about the ‘good old days’, you can be sure that they are actually talking about the ‘bad old days’. Peering back through rose tinted spectacles is an occupation that has no profit. Your days of yore were not salad days, they were ballad days and their romanticism is a simple, sickly, sentiment. The world has moved on and so should you. Nostalgia is derived from the Homeric Greek, nostos- a homecoming, and algos- a pain or ache. Living in the past or yearning for it, will ensure an acceleration of the aging process that is a pointless, painful waste of the present.
Clearly, the present is not perfect but making it better is preferable to the wistful melancholy of nostalgia. That is a self-indulgence favoured by those of a certain age, whose energies and experience would be better employed to inspire and guide the young to a brighter future of sunlit uplands. A future in which Thai gays can benefit from legal marriages, equality under the law, equal opportunities in the workplace and even the classroom. The young gays of Chiang Mai, unlike their western counterparts, do respect their elders but not if those elders are just bleating on about days long gone, never to be revisited and of doubtful merit.
Not every gay man is cut out to campaign but those who object, for example to a Gay Pride event in Chiang Mai, should stay home and continue to inhabit those comfy worlds of their own illusions – self constructed universes of smug memories and age disgracefully before shuffling off this mortal coil. The new generation have plans to make a future where nostalgia is not a sickness. Give them a hand.
James Barnes is editor-in-chief of OUT in Thailand Magazine.