A More Than Justified Delay
This week’s Podcast is a focussed conversation with Lewis Burton. I decided to publish it a few weeks after I promised because I saw it as a document that in time would get currency. So when Argentina won the World Cup and my country became one, I started thinking of my own friendship with Lewis which was filled with gay detachment and the impossibilty to find a community among people that instead of helping each other, go the extra mile to hurt the ones that they know can hurt like them or even more.
Killing Judith Buttler
I had to wait to understand the chat for what it really was and not to fall into the comfort of slogans and a certain politically correct jargon that from the start, and coming from Lewis, threatened to wash away the substance. I unconsciously tried to cover it with a lot of queer theory but it made me look disconnected and egocentric. To make things worse, from her presence in my Rococo class, Sally Gardner said that I tend to talk a bit too much and I certainly love her face when I speak. I guess what I am trying to say is that Lewis’ was not an easy interview because I was very aware of where activism and making a living touch and in Lewis that is very evident.
The other difficulty that this interview brought was our history together. I have known Lewis Burton for more than a decade. I kind of knew the way he thought but he surprised me. It is as if in the last three years he matured and he became clearer and bolder in his assertions. I love when he does not hesitate even for a second when I ask the Jose Esteban Munoz question of the dance floor as a place of emancipation. In any case, to me the interview was an opportunity to show in a friendly way to very opposed views of what being gay and an activist meant. The first one was allegedly and according to my own prejudices Lewis’s, a more celebratory and opportunistic and mine, a more melancholic and realistic. The truth, however, came to the fore when Lewis said nonchalantly that it was about money, he lived in a capitalist society and couldn’t fight it by himself. Such a statement, in a context like that of 70s street activism would have been unsayable but he pushed the whole issue aside, very nonchalantly , to talk about less metaphysical and more practical things. That is a generational and a cultural difference between an Argentine in his early 50s and Lewis. But the risk of turning the freak into a neoconservative actualisation of the muscle mary was real so I had to state it very clearly when I brought the trauma issue on which, obviously , we both agreed. Being gay entails a trauma that is not innate but socially constructed through rejection and by a celebration of difference as something homogeneous. the exceptional which is another form of insult.
Having devoted my last three years to becoming familiar with queer debates and literature, my eyes were opened and I saw with concern how ingrained homofobia is everywhere: academia, friends, family, other gay people. This makes that self congratulatory notion of gayness as a triumph celebrated by everybody in society, a very dangerous issue., And by homophobia I dont mean a mere unpleasant feeling but the potential for proper disaster when a crisis of the heterosexual couple in times of recession or war is confronted with the projective specter of inherited fantasies about paedophilia and family destruction which to my horror, some gay subcultures are cultivating as fetish which does not necessarily mean that they are paedophilic but that they are playing with fire in such a context of sugar coated hatred for us. When my former friend Jose Garcia Huidobro who manages his girlfriends business (Alexandra Kehayoglou) with whom, and I was not the one who said it, “we were like family” and used to go to Greece together every year decided that his lifestyle was shit, he aimed at me and said: “Rodrigo, only cares for himself” by what he punished me for not having kids. That is blatant homophobia.
He had helped me with the paperwork of the death of my mother when I was in shock which immediately gave him a special place in my heart but when I stumbled because precisely of that emptiness, he used it to make it look himself more relevant having very little to show for himself. so his pitch always had to do with “the wellbeing and the future of the next generation”. My naivete was such that it was another alleged progressive friend, an associate professor in Chicago, who made it even clearer to me when I could not understand their awkward behaviour that included dissappearing in the middle of the night from the house they had rented in Crete. So when she said: “they thought you were partying (meaning sex and drugs) in your loft (that was located under theirs)” i was horrified. I remember reacting with horror at the possibility of being in my place getting high in the proximity of kids who were, as a matter of fact, in a different house. Later, however, I thought: “f that was the case (which wasnt), what would the problem be if we are in different houses}). Unless the problem is that the kids would eventually by chance see a man walking out of my house without having been introduced and passed through the altar. So what?”. That is homophobia. Of course, the flaunting of our freedom through obscene hedonism does not help but I am not going to pretend misery to be loved.
The Ageing Heiress
My former student and friend Susy Surany made me alter my plans to organize a trip that I had already canceled to Koln and after confirming twice, she decided that she preferred to go somewhere else and I was supposed to remain silent and absorb the cost of her irresponsibility which was literally 1,200 GBP. I mean… In other words, something is going on and it is time that gays and queers stop playing as if they were what they are not and also, that straight people start revising their own beliefs if they are really committed to avoid homophobia. And I don’t want to consider this as an essentialist confrontation between two biologically different natures because everytime I have been to Crete I end up having sex with married men almost exclusively. Traditionally, gays have been accused of being spiderwomen kissing the husbands and stranging them from their beloved sweethearts. No, wakeup darling. Us gays we do not have time for that, it is your husbands who get married for fear to their inheritances being wiped out or their social context alienating them. It is so cruel. Last summer this issue knocked on my door when I fell for a gay guy that showed me the best side of being human and we even agreed for it being secret because he had the misfortune of being born in Crete and being stuck there or not having the tools to make the jump, he risked his family business because of the dishonour. I agreed to the terms but it was just not enough and eventually he would marry a rich girl he kept talking about. I am not the victim of anything or anyone but society does want to put us in our place even when like Kehayoglou, is shouting to whomever wants to listen that she is progressive and open minded. Bollocks. To make things even worse, when a straight couple suddenly falls apart because one of them is too vocal about his sexual prowess, which means insecurities, the one who always pays for it is the gay guy close to them. It happened to me twice this year.
Gay Domestic Violence
But going back to Lewis, although we have always liked each other’s presence, Lewis Burton and I have never been close friends because we are from different generations and knew each other through a friend in common that, let me put it like this, did a great job keeping us in separate groups. What I knew about Lewis, I knew it through the way our friend in common portrayed him and it was through his low aspects and not his obviously positive ones. But we got together when the shit hit the fan and homophobia knocked at the door: both internalised and external. Rolina was our intermediary, a super talented Dutch Romanian engraver and former martial arts champion who gathered a team to rescue our friends from his self-destructive relationship.
The levels of domestic violence in gay couples is something that needs to be talked about. It would be easy to say that I never experienced it with my metre eighythree and almost 90 kilos of boxing blood but, of course, I experienced it. Not physical but certainly emotional. There is something that I call International Division of Gay Labour and when I came to England, almost unconsciously I became part of it. What I mean is that with the imposition of an hegemonic idea of being gay or to be more precise, of achieving happiness being gay the ideal of settling down, something almost impossible for a gay man, suddenly was an imperative. Having a partner (they call it like this) means today having a certain degree of respectability but most importantly the promise that the two most wonderful virtues of being gay are for once, left behind. I refer to the capacity to find happiness without settling down and the ability to build community without having to pay with our own freedom through what the Queer theorist Jose Esteban Munoz called “fragmentary identifications”.
This is not debated enough and it deserves attention mostly in places like London, that have become Meccas for gays born amidst blatant homophobia and family pressure to have a better life as gay individuals away from them. A parent would accept such a move mainly because in London during the past three decades there was an excess of job offers. However, what there is in a city like this is not freedom but the persistence of the imperialist ethos under the aegis of love and this is something that women should openly acknowledge more often instead of insisting with the pointlessness of the discourse of love. In London, jobs are not jobs where one can acquire an identity, a sense of purpose and means to maintain oneself but sheer neoslavery where a person can be fired or made redundant any time and a landlord can cancel a contract whenever he needs to. In such conditions, a good looking gay man looks for a daddy who already has his property and his life kind of sorted. The problem with such asymmetry is that it comes with undisclosed demands that transform love into a veil for a different kind of enslavement…. Much more cruel, more effective and manipulative. The neoslave does not have the space to either victimize himself or escape because he is infantilised. The main form of racism among cultured people is infantilisation.
Those who arrive from places like Spain or Greece mostly do it with no experience of life in big cities. They come from their villages and they acquire an urban vocabulary having worked a few months in Madrid or Athens but they are village boys who suddenly find themselves in that mix of toy store and meat market that is London. When Lewis talks about his roots in Newcastle and then refers to money, there is something automatic in his relationship to the value of what he has as something that has a price. By contrast, those guys from Mediterranean countries cannot think of a relationship between their low value or any price and when they do it, they go too far and they are accused of prostitution. They just cannot win. Their innocence, nice looks and earnest predisposition to, more or less, everything sexual attracts post imperial midlife crisis gay Londoners who can hardly be predators but frustrated individuals that know very well how to manipulate with money and victimise themselves through racism. And they make use and take advantage of those benefits. Many of us want to believe and many of us do well and it is then when the problem starts. When the imperial certainties inside the home open up the possibility for the relationship to step up, usually the manipulator recoils and gets resentful and the challenger gets frustrated and leaves. So the infantile state becomes a self fullfilled prophecy. But the case of Justin Tay, our friend in common, was bad because he was aware of an untreated childhood trauma of his Spanish boyfriend and in spite of that, he carried on feeding the phantasy of a partnership that neither of them (victims of abuse) could take anywhere for the sole reason that had had no example of true love. Their only form of access to it was TV or Hollywood which is shape according to the rules of melodrama that is an infantile feminine view of relationships. This, my friends, is a fucked up society. Of course, that ended up with the village boy refusing to leave the house with a knife when the psychological shit hit the fan and his self harming form of cheating that consisted in bringing men all the time to have sex in the same bed he shared with his partner only to play the moral high ground 7pm onwards was found out.
It was then when the swat team had to intervene and I personally made sure he went back to Spain with his family to get proper psychological help. To my surprise, a year and half later, Justin decided “magnanimously” to give him a second opportunity that, of course, happened when he was desperately bored during lockdown. Again the discourse of love and melodrama filled his sentences with big words that spoke of hope and freedom when they were actually speaking of gambling and abuse. The repatriation was fast but before that, the boyfriend called me because I was the only one who spoke to him. Lewis, for example, abhorred him and made it very clear. In my case, I understood the conditions of his displacement and we could speak Spanish. I actually liked him but he needed help, for real. A kind of help Justin could not provide. In that phone conversation he spoke of Justin in derogatory terms and even threatening. The only thing I said was that if he felt like that he probably should not come. Those were difficult times for me. My mother, the last member of my biological family, had died and I was recently arrived to London frfrom a separation from a Brazilian boyfriend with whom I was trying to do exactly what I am preaching against now with you. That partner in Brazil was a device to delay the mourning of my mother which started the moment I set foot in England. Facing the abyss of a pain that is too overwhelming I took drugs but, honestly, not too many. The problem is that after a weekend of dehydration, I took an antinflamatory that the dentist had prescribed and contained Ibuprofen of which I am highly allergic. I felt I was dying. I ended up in the hospital. The first time in my life. Alone. The experience of a gay guy in a public hospital is always humiliating and if it has to do with drugs, even worse. Many questions that do not have to do with anything else but assuring the authorities that we are not spreading around the virus on purpose., I was alone in the Conquest Hospital on the borders of Hastings. I was new in this town and still did not have proper friends. I called that friend the one who repatriated the village boy from the hospital. I just wanted to know that I had someone here to help me and if I am not mistaken his title at the time was that of “best friend”. He did not allowed me to talk and sentenced: “You intervened into my personal things so goodbye”. He left me by myself in the hospital to translate to his friends, as if a mirror were able to speak. It is very difficult to understand the feeling of loneliness at the time. But I am not a victim and I had got into that friendship myself. The same thing happened with other people from a recovery fellowship I used to go so it became evident there was a belief in a superior knowledge of life coexisting with a perpetual self defeat. Justin did me a favour. I decided to take myself into my own hands and live a life through death instead of becoming a living dead or even worse, a leaving dead.
This is directly linked to the interview with Lewis because those gay friendships I am referring to were the ones who helped the neoconservative exterminate communities.
The way Lewis’s flamboyant modesty undoes Justin’s antisocial pedantry and questions the way the word “community” has been weaponised by successive administrations since the times of Tony Blair, mirrors howmulticulturalism with community tolerant not realizing that he was favoring ghettos. For him, Britain was London,a multicultural city where everybody lived happily with everybody when actually what happened was that whole communities as in West Side Story were pushed away or aside to build expensive homes for the upper schalons of the new slavery sistem. With the flexibilization of jobs and the dissappareance of unions, protest became a parody of themselves and a barista could be at his job one day without getting to know his supervisor. What community can you build on such weak foundations. And there are two moments when Lewis wahses all my doubts away. The first one is with the many examples of mutuality giving their back to a State that has abandoned them. That is somethings that should be watched carefully by politicians. The second one is when I ask him about his peers and influences and he mentions the other members of Inferno. He really thinks in terms of community but he is the most intelligent and articulate. That is why as the British Citizen that I am becoming after twenty years in this wondeful land, i ask His Majesty Charles III to consider, at least, an OBE to a person that finally managed to give a convincing definition of what a community in London is in the XXI century.