And the Night A Gay Man Saved My Life
So, one of the bonuses of working from home is that depending on what I’m doing; I can pop on the telly. And while I’m late to the game, my current binge is RuPaul’s Drag Race. So, when my eldest implored why it’s all I watch? And what?
Not Today Trump. Not Today.
The current political and social climate is in dire straits, and the inequality and bigotry of it all make for a bitter pill to swallow. How does one keep their chin up, when heads are down, and hackles are up?
My solution, watch a bit of drag. And RuPaul’s Drag Race is just the tonic. A life-affirming, riotous celebration of femininity and gender-bending. Each episode is a heady mix of sickening high-octane glamour, serious tucking and enough shade to beat even Trump’s coupon. The series fucks with conformity and shouts loud and proud; you can be whatever you want to be. But most of all I watch it because it reminds me of nights dancing my cares away to happy house with kindred souls. Of love, laughter, and the night a gay man saved my life.
I celebrate myself, and sing myself,-Walt Whitman
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.
The exact details are a little hazy, but I think it was 1992 or 93, and it was perhaps my first visit to Joy. Regardless, one thing I do know for sure, that night, I was to meet someone who would change my life forever. I can still see him shimmying away in the middle of the dance floor. Small and handsome, all ’90s straightened hair with a middle parting. T-shirt off, tucked into his back pocket with a bottle of poppers in the other. There was just something about him, and I couldn’t help but look. Intrigued, I had to dance closer, he turned to look at me and with mischief on his mind, winked. My fate was sealed.
From that night on, Cammy and I became besties, and I discovered someone who shared my love of a double entendre, dancing and house music. Toilet humour, guffawing at farts and pissing ourselves as we recited catchphrases from Viz Magazine and Carry On Films.
I gesture no two people could find a pot of fart putty funnier, especially in an airport lounge. A night on the sofa with horror movies, whisky and super noodles. Us arguing who was better, Madonna or Kylie? Like there’s an argument? Of course, it’s Madonna. I adored him; he was as infectious as a dose of crabs (minus the itching) and, to date, still THE funniest man I’ve ever met. Cammy was an anti-hero, the zero fucks definition of quirk; and the Patsy to my Eddie.
He was a born entertainer, and no night out or party was complete without him. He could hold a crowd for hours, infamous for his Lulu (once heard, never forgotten) or Amy
He was also vain as fuck and had a man bag stapped full of beauty products, fake tan and bronzing balls being particular favourites. The Love Island look; bitch, please. Any time he came to the house he’d say “I love your cooking, but don’t make it too spicy, it melts my bronzer and I’m not for that.” Face masks and chapstick, and he was
As particular as he was about his appearance, he liked to achieve tip top with minimum effort. Like the time he decided he wanted a six-pack but wasn’t willing to do anything about it. Instead, he purchased an ab toning belt, strapped it on, smoked a joint and proceed to fall asleep. Several hours later, he woke to find the electric currents had paralyzed his stomach muscles, and he couldn’t move. He was in agony for weeks, and we took the piss for years.
Some People Hate Because They Have Never Been Loved
When I met him, I was still reeling; I’d just come out the storm end of an abusive, toxic relationship. Defensive and so messed up that I don’t think I could have found my arse with both hands. But then along came Cammy, and down came my guard. He popped my gay cherry; in fact, he was the first of many things. The first person I did Ecstasy with, and the first I told about my past. There in the early hours after an after party, holding hands in the quiet of a comedown, dark enough so he couldn’t see my face, I let it all out. But in true Cammy style, after I’d spilled my guts, said: “right that’s enough emotion for one night, you don’t want anybody thinking you’re a poof.”
I never felt like I fitted in, let alone had a peer circle, and my life experience of men had been less than favourable; he changed that. And when he introduced me to his friends, this group of weird, eclectic individuals, I knew I’d found my tribe. I’d never seen my femininity and appeal as anything other than a curse; defined by either my fuckability or appearance. All I’d ever been was what others wanted or expected of me. But Joy, under the strobe lights, pumping and grinding, I discovered there was another side to masculinity, one that came without expectation. And whatever it was I had, they couldn’t get enough of it, they made me feel like a goddess. And so it was, that through Cammy and a bunch of gay misfits, I found my fierce.
Life Is A Dance Floor
I recall one night telling the group that when I was a wee girl, I so wanted to be a dancer. So, I was beyond excited when a dance school opened in the town. When I asked if I could join, the family told me “you can’t be a dancer, your too heavy (I was six and like a bean pole, not that that matters) and that was that confidence destroyed. But in time, the club scene found me, and it became my escape; by dancing, I was both lost and found. That night, as I was striking a pose, a friend turned to me and shouted over the music “look whose fucking dancing now, girl.”
Making up for lost time, I spent the next three years kicking the arse out of it and making memories. I am listening to my Friday night prescription of Graeme Park’s, Long Live House Radio. He’s playing the dished version of I Was A Male Stripper In A Go Go Bar. And as I type, flashback to Love Child with Tall Paul and Faithless. Both times, me and Cammy up on stage, giving it large with the backing dancers.
You Don’t Know The Value Of A Moment Until It Becomes A Memory
Like the time he took the huff when at an after-party, he found me sitting on Carl Cox’s lap (true story). Sulking, because he thought it should have been him. The time in G.A.Y. where he persuaded me to flirt with a very scary lesbian so that he could get off with her gay mate. Or when he dragged me right to the very front at a Girls Aloud concert, and I had to hike him up on my shoulders, so that he could wave at Cheryl. When I think about us, I reckon there are enough shenanigans to write a book. Well, at least the ones I could print anyway.
Given all this fun, commitment was the furthest thing from my mind; I was content on my own. But it seemed Cammy had other ideas. An unplanned night at a new venue, he says “now don’t lose the head, but I’ve brought someone I want you to meet. His name is Mark, and I think you’ll like him. Give him a chance and please don’t bite his head off.” After the introduction, when I turned to ‘what the fuck’ him, he’d already done one, hot-footing it to the dance floor and out of harm’s way.
Cammy met Mark through work, and although I’d never seen him before; actually, that’s not entirely true, because there was this one night in Joy, me on the dance floor and this blond guy, leaning on the bar, watching me move. I remember thinking ‘oh, he’s nice‘ and then he was gone. So when we were introduced that fateful night, my first thought (other than that I was going to kill Cammy) was ‘shit, you’re that guy.’ I was to find out later, that Mark and Cammy were also friends, and that we had been in the same place, at the same time on many occasions. But other than that glance, had never bumped into each other.
That was the Feb, four months later I was pregnant, we got married in Sep. My first son was born April 98′ with the Millenium bringing the birth of my second son. From that night to now, twenty-three years later, other than work, Mark and I have never had a day apart. It turns out Cammy knew me better than I knew myself.
You may have noticed when I speak of Cammy, I speak in the past tense, that’s because three years ago’s he took his own life. As fabulous as he was, Cammy had his demons, and in the end, they won out. His death devastated us all, and there is still no coming to terms with it. Even now, it’s still raw. How does one rationalise it, when you can’t even begin to conceive of the anguish he felt, especially when he was loved by so many. Suicide is a complex issue, but I won’t dwell, and instead, choose to remember the very best of my friend. There’s not a day goes by when I don’t think of him; I loved him so very, very much, we all did.
We Are Born Naked And The Rest Is Drag
It’s no coincidence that I write this in the month of Pride, and the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, a hugely significant event that gave rise to the Gay-Civil Rights Movement. Let’s be clear; Pride was not born out of a need to celebrate being gay, instead to protest the right to exist without prosecution. Love does not discriminate, and we should all try and colour outside the lines now and then. Gender is not an entitlement to love. As long as it doesn’t involve children and animals, and it is consensual, I don’t have a problem with it — each to their own. The only problem I have is that we are still protesting this shit.
My allegiance to the LGBTQ+ community is as strong now as it was back then, perhaps, given the current state of affairs, stronger. Through Cammy, I met some amazing people, most of whom are still friends to this day. Folk from all walks of life; gay, lesbian, bi, drag queens, trans and people that are HIV+ They were an education, each story, broadening my perspective; teaching me, that like nature, life is a rainbow coloured. And thanks to the gay community, found that family doesn’t have to be blood.
I owe my friend a debt of gratitude I can never repay. Who knows what my life would have been like if we’d never met. Here, I honour some of that debt by shouting my Pride from the rooftops; because love is a terrible thing to hate. People know how to love one another, and we should let them get on with it. The mantra of the decade is self-love, and perhaps this is the problem; people are so busy hating, they missed the memo.
Because in the word’s of RuPaul “If You Can’t Love Yourself. How In The Hell Are You Gonna Love Somebody Else.“
Now, can I get an Amen up in here.