Tom Daley Comes Out — As Happy

In the affect­ing, intimate-yet-professional YouTube clip above, a slightly red-eyed and emo­tional Tom Daley, the Olympic medal win­ning British diver and best thing to hap­pen to Speedos since Mark Spitz, says he was mis­quoted in an inter­view earlier this year in which he appeared to deny he was gay (albeit insist­ing he wouldn’t be ashamed if he was). He went on to make an announce­ment that you have prob­ably already read about.

Now I feel ready to talk about my rela­tion­ships. And come spring my life changed massively when I met someone and they make me feel so safe, happy and everything feels great. And that someone is a guy.’

Cue ban­ner head­lines announ­cing TOM DALEY COMES OUT!!. Millions of really witty Tweets about #TomGayley. And The Daily Telegraph inform­ing us on the front page of their online edi­tion that nineteen-year-old Tom has announced he is a nine­teenth cen­tury med­ical clas­si­fic­a­tion: ‘homosexual’.

Daily Telegraph 'Daley announces he is homosexual'
Daily Telegraph: ‘Daley announces he is homosexual’

Though in the actual clip rather than people’s over­heated minds Tom says no such thing. What he Tom Daley, the per­son whose sexu­al­ity we’re all pronouncing-pouncing on comes out as is: someone dat­ing a man who makes him feel safe and happy.

He also goes on to say: ‘I still fancy girls, of course’. He doesn’t in fact define his sexu­al­ity at any point, as gay, straight or even bisexual. That may change. Or it might not. And I’m sure every­one has an opin­ion on that.

But frankly, it doesn’t mat­ter. Whatever we might like to ana­lyse or gos­sip or spec­u­late — and I’m guilty of all those vices myself — in the end it’s really not our con­cern. It’s nineteen-year-old Tom’s con­cern. For all the crow­ing yes­ter­day from people who ALWAYS KNEW that Tom was A GAY, cur­rently his sexu­al­ity remains offi­cially undefined – even though yes, he does still have pretty eyes a soft voice and a really pert bum.

Tom’s jour­ney is his own to make. And sexu­al­ity itself is a jour­ney that doesn’t have to have a final des­tin­a­tion. But try telling that to the press. This excel­lent piece in the Guardian by Nichi Hodgson about the media’s need to label Tom as GAY said it best:

The only facts that speak for them­selves are that Daley is dat­ing a man, and wants to be hon­est about the fact so the media doesn’t try to make asser­tions about his per­sonal life and pref­er­ences for him. Instead, the only thing that has been outed today is the media’s rigid­ity – and stu­pid­ity – when it comes to report­ing on sexuality.”

Perhaps Tom might have been able to tell the world he was dat­ing a guy a bit sooner if the world, straight and gay hadn’t been yelling YOURE GAY!!! at him for most of his teens. If we all dialled the gay­dar down a little and erred on the side of open-mindedness it would make it a lot easier for guys to be open about their interest in other guys. Or bronzer and Speedos.

Though per­haps that is to miss part of the point of gay­dar – that it can be a form of sur­veil­lance. A way of poli­cing men’s appear­ance, gender style and sex lives, even and espe­cially when it’s gay men oper­at­ing it. It’s a source of con­stant won­der to me how many gay people for all their pride in their super-accurate long-distance gay­dar can’t see the sexual lib­er­a­tion wood for the gay trees.

This is the bit in Tom’s vid that we’re all not hearing:

In an ideal world I would not be doing this video because it should not matter.”

tom daley

Get Your Filthy Hands Off Me!’ Gorgeous George’s Glamorous Legacy

Rather than watch the Olympics, and all that noble, ser­i­ous sport­ing uplift, I’ve been read­ing a book about a carny, corny, shame­less 1940s-50s American wrest­ler: Gorgeous George: The Outrageous Bad-Boy Wrestler Who Created American Pop Culture, by John Capouya.

My American chum Chris Supermarky recom­men­ded it to me, think­ing it would be of interest. He wasn’t wrong. It was noth­ing less than a rev­el­a­tion. It was like find­ing the Rosetta Stone of met­ro­sexu­al­ity. Or at least, post-war male glamorousness.

George Wagner was a baby-faced bru­nette, pint-sized, some­what unre­mark­able 1940s US wrest­ler who decided he needed a gim­mick to get noticed. And boy, did he find one. By turn­ing him­self into Gorgeous George, a vain, primp­ing, preen­ing pea­cock who per­ox­ided his hair, had it metic­u­lously ton­sured, fussily held in place by gold-painted ‘Georgie’ pins, and wear­ing flam­boy­ant robes that were out­rageous cre­ations of lace and silk and chif­fon in mauves and pale pinks, he suc­ceeded in invent­ing per­haps the most per­sist­ent and suc­cess­ful gim­mick of the post-war world: The glam­or­ous, dec­ad­ent, ‘effem­in­ate’ male star.

Before Beckham. Before Boy George. Before Bowie. Before Jagger. Before Elvis. Before Liberace. Before Little Richard. Before James Brown there was Gorgeous George.

Under the shrewd guid­ance of his Svengali wife Betty (there’s no evid­ence, aside from his gor­geous­ness, that George was any­thing other than het­ero­sexual), who made many of his most dar­ing robes her­self, The ‘Human Orchid’ as he liked to be known, had deduced that the best way to get ‘heat’ from a wrest­ling audi­ence – and thus book­ings – was to trans­gress 1940s gender norms. Wildly. And cheat. Equally wildly. Not for noth­ing was his favour­ite slo­gan: ‘Win if you can. Lose if you must. But always cheat.’

The Sensation of the Nation’s pan­to­mime per­form­ance of sis­sy­n­ess was a kind of cheat­ing in itself: in 1940s and early 50s America men, par­tic­u­larly the blue-collar kind that Wagner wrestled for, were not allowed to enjoy chif­fon and affect­a­tion. George was bend­ing the rules and gender.

To help milk his act, and mul­tiply his crimes, Wagner would hold his pre-match press con­fer­ences in local beauty par­lours while hav­ing his hair mar­celled and employed a tail-coated valet (a device later appro­pri­ated by GG fan James Brown) who would snob­bishly spray the ring with cologne before George would deign to grace it with his aris­to­cratic pres­ence. When the ref­eree tried to search George before the match as required by wrest­ling rules he would recoil offen­ded, shout­ing ‘GET YOUR FILTHY HANDS OFF ME!!’

Such were the pas­sions aroused by George’s gor­geous­ness that his incen­di­ary appear­ance often led to fights and some­times mini-riots when incensed mem­bers of the pub­lic would storm the ring in an indig­nant fury and try to take him on them­selves. The dir­ector John Waters recalls watch­ing GG on TV as a kid, spell­bound by this appar­i­tion of queen­i­ness — while his offen­ded par­ents yelled insults at the lacey freak. GG was someone that America loved to hate but ended up just loving.

Although largely for­got­ten today, GG was about as fam­ous as you could get back then: a by-word for fame itself — even mak­ing an appear­ance in a Bugs Bunny Warner Bros car­toon (as ‘Ravishing Ronald’), and one of the first proper stars of the new medium of tele­vi­sion. Wrestling had been taken up by the early net­works as a cheaply-staged way of inter­est­ing the masses in this new-fangled gad­get. The small screen turned out to have been made for GG’s big glam head.

Many claimed to have been influ­enced by GG (includ­ing Bob Dylan of all people) but per­haps his most fam­ous dis­ciple was a young, rel­at­ively down­beat Mohammed Ali, who decided to adopt GG’s vain­glori­ous, pro­voc­at­ive per­sona – to dev­ast­at­ing effect:

I made up my mind after [meet­ing] Gorgeous George to make people angry at me.… I saw fif­teen thou­sand people comin’ to see this man get beat. And his talk­ing did it. I said this is a gooood idea!’

And so Ali became the mouthy black boxer who bragged about being the ‘pret­ti­est thing you’ve ever seen’ – ‘The Greatest’. Ali really was gor­geous. Facially and bod­ily. Wagner on the other hand… slightly less so. I’m not sug­gest­ing of course for one moment that GG was ugly – but at 5′ 9″, with a Roman nose and a bit of a pot belly his gor­geous­ness was per­haps more aspir­a­tional than Ali’s. Particularly in the lat­ter part of his career George’s appear­ance puts me in mind of Freud’s fam­ous phrase: ‘His majesty the baby.’

There was a dark side to all this glam­or­ous­ness. Wagner reportedly began to believe his own pub­li­city and insisted his own chil­dren refer to him as ‘Gorgeous George’, or ‘GG’. He was also, even by the stand­ards of the time and his pro­fes­sion, a hardened drinker. After both his mar­riages failed he took to drink­ing even more. And as TV fell out of love with wrest­ling, and the years – and the booz­ing – took their toll, he of course drank even more.

By the late 50s early 60s Gorgeous George was reduced to nov­elty fights in which he was billed as for­feit­ing his lovely locks if he lost. And of course, he did — sub­mit­ting to the indig­nity of being clippered seated on a stool in the centre of the ring, like a lat­ter day Samson. A great box-office suc­cess the first time, this ritual humi­li­ation became less and less so the more he repeated it. Even see­ing Gorgeous George finally get­ting what had been com­ing to him all these years wasn’t enough of a draw second or third time around.

When the final bell rang in 1963 and George Wagner died of liver dis­ease and heart fail­ure, aged 48, all the large wedges of cash that had passed through his hands dur­ing his stun­ningly suc­cess­ful career had van­ished without trace: he was pen­ni­less. But fam­ily and friends made sure he was given a glam­or­ous send off.

The Human Orchid was dressed in his favour­ite purple satin robe (the ‘George Washington’), his hair was ton­sured and pinned one last time and he was exhib­ited in a highly pol­ished purple cas­ket — before being ‘planted’ in the ground.

While he may have been largely for­got­ten, George’s glam­or­ous ‘gim­mick’ of course took root in the cul­ture, and lives on.

 

 

Let me Hear Your Body Talk

Are men the new women? I’ve always avoided using that line until now. As the (hetero)sexual divi­sion of labour and lov­ing and look­ing con­tin­ues to fall apart, men are the new everything. Just as women are.

But in the last few months we’ve been told men now take longer get­ting ready than women, mer­ci­fully delet­ing at a stroke most of the mater­ial of stand-ups like John Bishop. We’ve also been told that gents are more likely to take travel irons, hairdry­ers and straight­en­ers on hol­i­day than ladies. Now there’s new evid­ence they may be as body-conscious as women too. In fact, accord­ing to a widely-reported study of 394 British men pub­lished last week, lads are now more con­cerned with their body image than lasses.

A third said they think about their appear­ance more than five times a day, 18% were on a high-protein diet to increase muscle mass, and 16% on a calorie-controlled diet to slim down. While a Faustian 15% claimed they would hap­pily trade 2–5 years of their life if they could have their ideal body weight and shape. (Probably because they hoped the years would be sliced off the end of their lives — when they’re old and crumbly and not very likely to go on Big Brother anyway).

Some we’re told were under­tak­ing com­puls­ive exer­cise, strict diets, using lax­at­ives or mak­ing them­selves sick in an attempt to lose weight or achieve a more toned physique. And although the sur­vey didn’t cover this, other data sug­gests a sur­pris­ingly large num­ber of men are also tak­ing ster­oids, growth hor­mones and other pre­scrip­tion drugs to achieve a more aes­thet­ic­ally pleas­ing appear­ance.

Which gen­er­ally means tits and abs. Men’s main pre­oc­cu­pa­tion, the sur­vey found, was their ‘beer belly’ and lack of muscles, with a whop­ping 63% say­ing they thought their arms or chests were not mus­cu­lar enough. And people never believe me when I tell them that while some women are size queens, all men are.

‘Geordie Shore’s Jay knows what you want

Clearly a lot of men are gaz­ing avar­i­ciously at the flaunted porno pecs and abs of hit TV shows like Jersey/Geordie Shore (Geordie Shore is back for a second sea­son on MTVUK at the end of this month). We already know they’re buy­ing Men’s Health magazine as it became the biggest-selling men’s mag recently. All those tarty, shouty Men’s Health front cov­ers prom­ising BIGGER ARMS! PUMPED PECS! and RIPPED ABS! in a fort­night may be as laugh­able as they are repet­it­ive, but they’re clearly, luc­rat­ively tap­ping into 21st Century man’s deep­est, darkest and beefi­est desires.

Men may or may not be the new women, but men’s tits and abs are the new eye candy. Men have become their own High Street Honeys.

They’re also rather bitchy. Apparently 80.7% of the sur­vey respond­ents talked about their own or oth­ers’ appear­ance in ways that draw atten­tion to weight, lack of hair or slim frame. It also con­firms that men of whatever sexual ori­ent­a­tion look rather a lot at each other’s bod­ies, com­par­ing and con­trast­ing, desir­ing and detracting.

Dr Philippa Diedrichs of the Centre for Appearance Research at UWE in Bristol who led the sur­vey, described this con­ver­sa­tion between men about their bod­ies as ‘body talk’ (which makes me think of both Olivia Newton John beat­ing up the fat­ties in ‘Physical’, and also that single from the same era by the incred­ibly camp dance band Imagination.)

Body talk rein­forces the unreal­istic beauty ideal which rein­forces lean­ness and mus­cu­lar­ity. This is tra­di­tion­ally seen as an issue for women but our research shows that men are feel­ing the pres­sure to con­form too.’

Rosi Prescott, chief exec­ut­ive of Central YMCA which com­mis­sioned the research also sees this as ‘damaging’:

Historically con­ver­sa­tion about your body has been per­ceived as some­thing women do, but it is clear from this research that men are also guilty of com­ment­ing on one another’s bod­ies; and in many cases this is hav­ing a dam­aging effect. Men’s high levels of body talk were symp­to­matic of a grow­ing obses­sion with appear­ance, she added.

Some three in five men (58.6%) said body talk affected them, usu­ally negatively.’

I’m a bit con­flic­ted here. Probably because as an ‘avid fan’ of the worked-out male body I’m part of the prob­lem. On the one hand I wel­come this kind of research and the pub­li­city it’s received because it’s both put­ting the spot­light on both how much men’s beha­viour has changed of late, and also under­min­ing sex­ist assump­tions about ‘men’ and ‘women’, which many fem­in­ists, like lazy stand-ups, buy into. And it’s always good to draw atten­tion to the Patrick Batemanesque dark side of the met­ro­sexual revolu­tion – and its costs.

On the other hand, I’m not entirely sure that apply­ing the prob­lem­at­ising, patho­lo­gising and some­times Puritanical, dare I say ‘Wolfian’ (as in ‘Naomi’), dis­course that’s been used on women’s bod­ies whole­sale to men would be some­thing to wel­come. Men aren’t the new women, but they might be the new moral panic.

This ‘body talk’ amongst men isn’t neces­sar­ily a sign of ‘guilt’ as was sug­ges­ted. It might be a healthy hon­esty. And whilst obvi­ously this kind of cri­tique and com­pet­i­tion might push some into anxi­ety and obses­sion and self-destructive beha­viour, or con­form­ity to rather nar­row ideals of male beauty, the gen­er­al­ised, com­puls­ory, tra­di­tional self-loathing that exis­ted amongst men before ‘body talk’ and (male) body interest became accept­able was in many ways worse. It was also, remem­ber, ‘normal’.

After all, not want­ing to talk about their bod­ies is part of the reason why men his­tor­ic­ally have been very reluct­ant to visit their GP and tend to die much earlier on aver­age than women. Until very recently the male body was simply an instru­ment that was to be used until the main­spring broke. Barely giv­ing men time to rewind their hor­ribly sym­bolic retire­ment clock.

And cer­tainly, men didn’t look at one another’s bod­ies. Unless they were queer.

Not any­more. Men’s ‘body talk’ has become deaf­en­ing. On the hit ITV real­ity series The Only Way is Essex Arge, who is a little on the husky side, was always gaz­ing long­ingly at Mark (above) and ask­ing how he gets his ‘fit body’ and whether he can help him get one too.

A mar­ried squad­die mate who is an occa­sional gym buddy always sub­jects my body to a close scru­tiny in the chan­ging rooms after our workouts, appre­ci­at­ively com­mend­ing, say, my delt­oid or tri­cep devel­op­ment, and mer­ci­lessly cri­ti­cising, say, my fore­arms’ fail­ure to keep up with them. And my belly’s gen­eral miser­able flab­bi­ness. Part of me dreads the scru­tiny, but another wel­comes the frank ‘body talk’ too. I’m glad he gets all Olivia Newton John on my ass. If he didn’t, I might have to pay someone to do it.

Mind you, his wise obser­va­tion about gym cul­ture to me one day sticks in my mind: “It’s all about ‘ow you look isn’t it, Mark? Nobody really cares whether any of this makes you fit or not. You could be rot­ten under­neath but if you look great no one gives a fook.” He’s right. The met­ro­sexy cult of male beauty is all a bit Dorian Ghey.

Which reminds me, appar­ently a quarter of the respond­ents in this sur­vey were gay (well, it was sponsored by the Central YMCA). Of course, some people will hast­ily seize upon that to dis­qual­ify its find­ings. And while it prob­ably is reason to treat them with at least as much cau­tion as those of any other sur­vey, I’m inclined to see the large sample of gay men included as a sign of this survey’s rel­ev­ance and inclus­ive­ness. After all, it’s gays that are to blame for the cult of male bloody beauty.…

Gays like The Village People. Love it or loathe it, the body-fascist found­a­tions for the met­ro­sexy male cul­ture we’re liv­ing in were laid in the early Eighties. And I’m deli­ri­ously happy the Central YMCA com­mis­sioned this sur­vey as it’s a per­fect excuse for me to post (below) my Favourite Music Video of All Time. I sus­pect it was part of the inspir­a­tion for Olivia’s ‘Physical’ video. (And both were almost cer­tainly inspired by this epic.)

Every frame is a joy, but the Busby Berkeley (or is it Leni Riefensthal?) shot of the swim­mers diving one after the other into the pool as if they were perfectly-formed pop­pies scythed down by the camera’s gaze never fails to send me into par­oxysms of delight. For me, it’s always fun to stay at the YMCA.

Which is just as well. In the 21st Century we’re all checked in there. Permanently.

 

Really Rucking Funny: Best Manlove Video of 2011 (SFW)

This clip by Irish com­edy out­fit Dead Cat Bounce called ‘Rugby’ has to be my favour­ite video of 2011. Even if it strongly sug­gests that, in Ireland at least, my work here is done and it’s well past time to retire to the touch-lines.

There’s much to admire here: the light­ness of touch, the hil­ari­ous blend of the accur­ate and the absurd; the josh­ing, ban­ter­ing, boy­ish affec­tion — both for rugby and man­love. I even like the tune. But I find myself espe­cially mes­mer­ised by the lead singer’s vast, match-winning gob. He could swal­low that giant, muddy testicle he’s pre­tend­ing to lick without it so much as touch­ing the sides.

It seems I’m not the only one who rated this man­love bal­lad. Originally broad­cast on their state TV sta­tion RTE, it’s the fifth most pop­u­lar YouTube clip in Ireland this year. Oh, and you can down­load the song from iTunes too.

Below the YouTube clip are scores of com­ments by self-identified straight rugby play­ers and fans, most of whom seem to love it as much as this old homo does:

im a rugby player. i play lock.. which makes me the guy who sticks his head between the guys’ thighs. i still think this is fuck­ing hilarious.’

It’s dif­fi­cult to ima­gine a sim­ilar skit about soc­cer get­ting the same good-humoured response. But then, as sev­eral rugby fans have poin­ted out, soc­cer is for poofs.


Tip: Dermod Moore

The Press Still Love-Hates ‘Twinkletoes’ Ronaldo So

Cristiano Ronaldo’s latest fash­ion foible, painted toe-nails has pro­voked the usual bitchy, mock­ing response that is attached to any­thing Ronaldo in the Anglo media. Despite — or per­haps because of — the way they seem to regard him as a sure-fire way of selling newspapers.

The announce­ment of the birth of his son by a sur­rog­ate mother last week also presen­ted another oppor­tun­ity to give him a good kick­ing.  Some, like Celia Walden in The Telegraph, really going over­board in the expres­sion of their tain­ted, twis­ted love.  It almost makes me regret out­ing the male nar­ciss­ism of met­ro­sexu­al­ity.  As one of the com­menters on the Telegraph web­site points out, her hus­band Piers Morgan is everything she com­plains about in Ronaldo — but untal­ten­ted and unat­tract­ive.  More gen­er­ally it goes without say­ing that Ronaldo’s van­ity would be con­sidered nor­mal and healthy and worthy of approb­a­tion in say, a much less pretty female journalist.

It’s pos­sible, I sup­pose, that Ronaldo painted his toe­nails as a riposte to the ‘Twinkletoes’ school play­ground nick­name (Twinkletoes was a fairy, ged­dit?) given to him by foot­ball fans and the tabloids dur­ing his stint at Manchester United.  But much more prob­able he painted his toe­nails just because he thought it would be fun and might look nice.  Which is an outrage.

Really, it’s no won­der that a year after leav­ing these shores the UK press con­tinue to love-hate him so.  This boy from a humble Portuguese fam­ily is very rich.  He’s fam­ous.  He’s fab­ulously tal­en­ted.  He’s young.  He’s absurdly good look­ing.  And he doesn’t owe any­one any­thing.  Worst of all, he knows it and doesn’t bother to hide this know­ledge.  And he thinks noth­ing of paint­ing his toe­nails because he feels like it, rather than because Esquire magazine told him to.  Yes, he’s a spoilt child, but then — so are the gods.

Here are a couple of other recently snapped pho­tos which may help explain the jeal­ousy mere mor­tals feel towards him.   (And let me assure you most people work­ing in journ­al­ism are very mor­tal indeed — inwardly and out­wardly.)

Tip: Mark W