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David C Dawson's blog

Love, Law and Liberty

Musings Posted on Tue, October 29, 2019 17:42:04
British Library
The British Library, London

If you want to know how far we’ve come in the fifty plus years since homosexuality was partially decriminalised in Britain, pop along to the British Library in Central London. They’ve got a fascinating collection of exhibits.

If you were alive in 1967, chances are you’d never believe the day would come when a glossy magazine would feature a same sex family positively on its front cover. Or the heir to the throne giving an in-depth interview to a gay magazine. This is all carefully documented in artefacts available in the British Library.

In the UK, the history of legalised homophobia starts in 1533, when the Buggery Act was passed during the reign of Henry VIII. The law was reinforced in Victorian England, and oppression continued throughout the twentieth century and into the twenty-first.

For example, you can see an original copy of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885. It created a much more oppressive law against homosexuality, and brought about the trial and imprisonment of Oscar Wilde.

Lippincott’s Magazine published The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde’s only novel, July 1890 (c) British Library Board
Lippincott’s Magazine July 1890 (c) British Library Board



There’s a great deal of fascinating Wildean archive in the British Library, including a copy of Lippincott’s Magazine. The Picture of Dorian Gray, Wilde’s only novel, was first published in the magazine.

The book was slammed by critics of the time as “effeminate and contaminating”. Wilde rewrote it to play down the homoerotic content.

There are some fascinating facts to unearth in this wonderful library. For example, did you know Terence Rattigan’s play The Deep Blue Sea was originally written with two gay men as the protagonists? Rattigan based their story in part on his secret relationship with the actor Kenny Morgan.

There’s a copy of Virginia Woolf’s transgender classic Orlando, about a male poet who becomes a woman and lives for centuries meeting key figures of English literary history. Alongside it is an interview with Woolf’s lover Vita Sackville-West talking about the inspiration for the book.

Original poster for Pits and Perverts fund raiser concert


Until I revisited recently, I’d forgotten the British Library not only has a vast collection of books and documents, but also a comprehensive audio archive.

I spent a wonderfully nostalgic time listening to Julian and Sandy, AKA Hugh Paddick and Kenneth Williams, from the BBC radio show Round the Horne. At a time when homosexuality was still illegal in Britain, they regularly brought the secret gay language Polari to a weekly listening audience of up to fifteen million.

Then there’s a recording of the late Mark Ashton, one of the founders of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners, portrayed in the 2014 film Pride. Or you can listen to a recording from 1932 of Noel Coward singing Mad About the Boy.

Spend a day here, and learn about the bravery of the campaigners whose efforts led to the increasing sexual equality we enjoy today.



How I Came Out

Musings Posted on Wed, October 23, 2019 22:28:27

In summer 2016, I stood on the stage of the Cadogan Hall in London and gave a little speech. It was during a performance by The London Gay Men’s Chorus. It was an emotional moment for me, because my son was in the audience. When you read the text, you’ll see why that’s significant.

Here it is.

“Hello, my name’s David Dawson and I’ve been with the chorus for just over four years, and I sing Bass. I’ve been asked to tell you why I’m here.

It’s very simple, my mum sent me. You see I came out rather late in life – when I was aged 52. But when you meet a man and you fall head over heels in love with him – you’ve got to tell everyone.

And you’ve got to tell your mum.

Who was eighty-eight at the time. So when I told her, there was some initial shock. But, after she met him they got on well. All was fine.

Actually, one day, she and I were sat on the sofa together, and she suddenly says, “So now you’re gay David, I suppose you’re going to join that London Gay Men’s Chorus?”

I have to confess, at the time I’d never heard of the Chorus.

So she says, “Well, you like singing, and you’ve always sung in choirs. And they were on the TV the other night singing with Dolly Parton and they seemed like lovely boys. So why don’t you join them?”

So I did. And they’ve been my lifeline over these past years. And I can confirm, they are lovely boys – all of them.

Actually, before telling my mum, there was someone I had to tell first.

My son.

He’d just started at University. So, I went off to tell him in person.

And I was terrified.

All I had to say were three small words: “I am gay”.

But I couldn’t. Actually, the conversation went something like this:

“I’ve met someone. And it’s a man.”

He looks at me. And says, “You mean, you’re gay?”

And, I still couldn’t say those three small words, so I sort of nodded.

He pauses, and says: “Do you love him?”

And I said: “Yes.”

So he says, “That’s OK then.”

And it was all fine.

Just before I was leaving, he turns to me and says:

“Love you dad.”

Three small words. They mean so much.”



Archibald

Musings Posted on Thu, July 25, 2019 09:16:57

He’s battered and frayed, he’s lost an eye and some of his stuffing is beginning to leak out.

I’ve put him on the shelf by the TV, where I can always see him when I sit here. His one button eye, squinting at me.

John said he was the first toy he ever had when he was a baby. But I can’t believe that. I mean, he’s got button eyes that are wired in. You don’t give that to a baby. It’s not safe.

It doesn’t matter. John gave him to me, that first Christmas when we moved in here, five years ago. “A bear for a bear,” he said. His most treasured possession, and he gave him to me. John said his sister had called him Archibald Bear, so that’s always been his name.

Marion, John’s sister, is the only one from his family who’s ever kept in touch. She came to visit us soon after we moved to LA. John’s mom and dad never did. They didn’t want to meet me. He used to go visit them once a year, alone, usually just before Thanksgiving. They live up in Oregon.

Marion was here, the night John was shot. There was a knock at the door. I was in the bathroom and John was out, so Marion answered it.

I heard men’s voices. Then I heard her kind of moan, like an almost animal cry. When I came into the living room, there were two cops there. They’d just told her about the shooting. Marion was all hunched up on the couch, just hugging herself and rocking.

When we got to the hospital, the medics said they were doing everything they could. But he died. John died at 8:23pm on Thursday the 10th June.

The hospital said it wasn’t possible for me to see his body, as I wasn’t related. I said I’d been his boyfriend for nearly six years. But they said that didn’t count. They needed the permission of his parents.

His mom and dad arrived the next day. Marion went to meet them at LA X, and they took a cab straight to the hospital. They didn’t let me see his body.

Marion rang me to say his mom was coming to the apartment to collect all John’s things and take them back home. I said we shared everything. We were practically married for chrissake.

John’s mom didn’t fight about it. She said she just wanted some pictures, a few of his clothes and John’s old baseball stuff, from college days. I hid Archibald, so I got to keep him.

They wouldn’t let me go to the funeral. Jeez, they wouldn’t even tell me when it was. Marion called to say it was happening, but she said it was probably best I didn’t go. John’s dad was looking to cut up real rough and was talking about getting a court order to exclude me. John used to tell me his dad is devout Presbyterian and uses words like abomination and crap like that.

Marion had a big row with them about the funeral. She’s moved out to Seattle now and won’t talk to any of her family. When you think about it, she’s not only lost her kid brother, but the whole lot of them. She’s coming down to stay in a few weeks. I think I’ll give her Archibald.



Father Christmas gets the flu

Musings Posted on Fri, December 01, 2017 12:56:01

Father Christmas had the flu.

He felt terrible.

His big, shiny nose was blocked. His
body ached, and he felt both hot and cold, all at the same time.

He lay in his bed at Lapland House, with
a thermometer under his tongue. Doctor Bilzi stood beside the bed, and held
Father Christmas’s wrist. He tutted, shook his head, and removed the
thermometer from Father Christmas’s mouth. He examined the thermometer, and
tutted again.

“You mustn’t move from here, Father
Christmas,” he said. “You’ve got a very high temperature, and your body needs
lots of rest.”

Father Christmas groaned.

“But it’s the twenty-second of
December,” he said. “ In two days time I have to fly around the world and give
toys to all the children.”

Doctor Bilzi shook his head.

“You won’t be well enough to do that,”
he said. “You’ll just have to cancel Christmas this year.”

Father Christmas sat up in bed. He was
very angry.

“That’s impossible,” he cried. He held
his hand up to his head, groaned, and slumped back onto the pillow.

“Oh, I feel terrible.” He closed his
eyes. “What am I to do?”

That night, Father Christmas could not
sleep. He tossed and turned as he fretted about what to do. Just after three
o’clock in the morning, he sat bolt upright in bed.

“That’s it,” he said out loud. “That’s
what I’ll do.”

He lay back on the pillow, and slept
soundly until morning.

News that Father Christmas was ill
spread quickly through the Lapland toy factory. It was next door to Lapland
House, and on the next morning a great crowd gathered outside the house,
keeping watch in silence.

Hundreds of elves who worked in the
factory, grooms who worked in the reindeer stables, and packers who worked in
parcel despatch stood waiting for news.

“Perhaps we can delay Christmas until
he’s better,” whispered the ribbon and wrapping supervisor, a tall elf with a
green pointed hat topped with a white pompom. “My team needs a couple of extra
days to get everything finished.”

“But think of the scandal if we do,”
said the groom standing next to him. “Rudolph and the rest of the reindeer will
be so unpopular if the children have to wait for their toys. They must be delivered
by Christmas morning.”

“Shh,” said a soft toy stuffer behind
them. “Look. He’s coming out on to the balcony.”

The crowd looked up as two heavy wooden
doors on the first floor of Lapland House opened. Father Christmas walked
slowly onto the balcony. He was wrapped in two large white duvets, and he had a
big red hat on his head. He shuffled forward, and grasped the rail of the
balcony with his plump red hands.

Father Christmas started to speak, but
no one in the crowd could hear him. His voice was very weak, and he was too far
away.

There was a commotion behind him, and an
elf in a bright yellow suit scurried out onto the balcony. He carried a chair
in one hand, and a large plastic megaphone in the other.

He set the chair down next to Father
Christmas, climbed on to it, and held the megaphone in front of Father
Christmas’s mouth.

“My friends.” Father Christmas’s voice
boomed across the courtyard in front of Lapland House. Now, everybody could
hear him.

“As you probably know,” he continued. “I
have the flu. I feel terrible. And Doctor Bilzi has told me I must stay in bed.
But tomorrow night, I should fly around the world to deliver presents to all
the children.”

Father Christmas paused, and let out a
very loud sneeze. Everybody in the courtyard covered their ears, as the sound bounced
off the walls.

“Doctor Bilzi has told me I must cancel
Christmas this year. And that’s what I’ve decided to do.”

A puff of frozen breath rose above the
heads of the crowd, as all the elves in the courtyard gasped. The noise of
excited chatter grew louder and louder. Father Christmas held up his hands for
silence.

“Christmas has gone wrong,” he
continued. “It sends the wrong message to children. It brainwashes them to
become part of the capitalist consumer society. It fuels greed and envy. We all
know that Marx’s dialectical materialism tells us that any attempt to reconcile materialism with
idealism must result in confusion and inconsistency.”

He gestured around the courtyard.

“And that’s what we’ve all done. Even
though we meant well.”

Father Christmas paused to sneeze again,
loudly.

“What’s to become of us?” cried a voice
from the crowd.

“My friends,” Father Christmas held out
his arms in supplication to the crowd. “Don’t worry. I have a new plan. We’ll
start again. I’ll look after you all. Christmas must send a message of
generosity. From today, all children will make presents for each other. We’ll
become the distribution house for their gifts. Every child can give a gift.
Even if it’s the gift of love.”

He shivered, and pulled the duvets
tighter around him.

“And the first thing we’ll do is move
away from Lapland. I’m not spending another winter in this cold and ice.”

“But where will we go?” asked the elf
holding the megaphone.

“We’ll go to South America,” replied
Father Christmas. “It’s much warmer there. And I’ll set up the children’s gifts
exchange there. In the Amazon.”



Archibald

Musings Posted on Wed, July 27, 2016 14:57:42

He’s battered and frayed, he’s lost an eye and some of his
stuffing is beginning to leak out.

I’ve put him on the shelf by the TV, where I can always see
him when I sit here. His one button eye, squinting at me.

John said he was the first toy he ever had when he was a
baby, but I can’t believe that. I mean, who would give a teddy bear with button
eyes that are wired in, to a baby? It’s not safe.

It doesn’t matter. John gave him to me, that first Christmas when
we moved in here, five years ago. “A bear for a bear,” he said. His most
treasured possession, and he gave him to me. John said his sister had called
him Archibald Bear, so that’s always been his name.

Marion, John’s sister, is the only one from his family who’s
ever kept in touch. She came to visit us soon after we moved to LA. John’s mum
and dad never did. They didn’t want to meet me. He used to go visit them once a
year, alone, usually just before Thanksgiving. They live up in Oregon.

Marion was here, the night John was shot. There was a knock
at the door. I was in the bathroom and John was out, so Marion answered it.

I heard men’s voices. Then I heard her kind of moan, like an
almost animal cry. When I came into the living room, there were two cops there.
They’d just told her about the shooting. Marion was all hunched up on the
couch, just hugging herself and rocking.

When we got to the hospital, the medics said they were doing
everything they could. But he died. John died at 8:23pm on Thursday the 10th
June.

The hospital said it wasn’t possible for me to see his body,
as I wasn’t related. I said I’d been his boyfriend for nearly six years. But
they said that didn’t count. They needed the permission of his parents.

His mom and dad arrived the next day. Marion went to meet
them at LA X, and they took a cab straight to the hospital. They didn’t let me
see his body.

Marion rang me to say his mom was coming to the apartment to
collect all John’s things and take them back home. I said we shared everything;
we were practically married for chrissake.

John’s mom didn’t fight about it. She said she just wanted
some pictures, a few of his clothes and John’s old baseball stuff, from college
days. I hid Archibald, so I got to keep him.

They wouldn’t let me go to the funeral. Jeez, they wouldn’t
even tell me when it was. Marion called to say it was happening, but she said
it was probably best I didn’t go. John’s dad was looking to cut up real rough
and was talking about getting a court order to exclude me. John used to tell me
his dad is devout Presbyterian and uses words like abomination and crap like
that.

Marion had a big row with them about the funeral. She’s moved
out to Seattle now and won’t talk to any of her family. When you think about
it, she’s not only lost her kid brother, but the whole lot of them. She’s
coming down to stay in a few weeks. I think I’ll give her Archibald.