Recently, at a private club overlooking the lawns and azure swimming pools of Beverly Hills, I met screen writer Graham Moore. Graham is a short, boyish man with a winning smile. I thought he was cute, I thought he was gay. He was finishing his lunch, I wanted to know more about him.
I was delighted when he told me he had written Alan Turing’s long awaited bio pic The Imitation Game now starring Benedict Cumberbatch. Turing is widely considered to be the father of theoretical computer science and artificial intelligence. He was also chemically castrated by the British government for being gay. After questioning Moore about his film and the route he had chosen to take… specifically regarding Turing’s gayness, Graham rapidly lost his sweet smile, becoming very tight lipped.
I wanted to know if there was any gay sex/love in the film? “No”, he replied abruptly, his tone changing… as if this question had been asked too many times, or… this was a question that he had been expecting, but didn’t want to answer. Realizing there was something amiss, I asked Graham if he was gay. Graham told me that he is a straight man.
I told him rather grandly that all of my films had gay themes. Perhaps, sensing my ire, my gay militancy or simply knowing that a gay film maker in Hollywood is perceived as a lesser film maker, to some… no more than a pornographer, Moore boasted that he had gone to great lengths to purge the film of anything gay. He didn’t want Turing’s gayness to be a ‘distraction’. He didn’t want gay sex to ‘put off the majority’. He was adamant that he didn’t want his film to be a gay film.
I warned him that his rather old fashioned attitude could cause a backlash… that Turing was an important part of our LGBT history. That Alan Turing had been tortured by the state for being gay. Moore scoffed that I was still in a minority and people were interested in Turing the man and not Turing the gay man.
Apparently Graham Moore did a very good job of avoiding the truth….
Benedict Cumberbatch has defended the lack of gay sex in his upcoming Alan Turing biopic.
The gay World War II codebreaker – often hailed as the grandfather of modern computing – was convicted of ‘gross indecency’ in 1952 after having sex with a man, and was chemically castrated, barred from working for GCHQ, and eventually driven to suicide.
However, the upcoming biopic of Turing’s life, which stars Cumberbatch, has attracted criticism for focussing on his brief engagement to fellow codebreaker Joan Clarke, played by Kiera Knightly, instead of his romances with other men.
Cumberbatch told The Wrap: “You don’t see him having sex. It’s not an exploration of someone’s sex life.”
He added that the film attempted to make his sexuality known through dialogue, saying: “The fact [is mentioned] that he’s chemically castrated because he admits to being a homosexual – he talks about entreating a young man to touch his penis. I mean, it’s pretty explicit.
“If you need to see that to understand that he’s gay, then all is lost for any kind of subtle storytelling. It’s not something that needed to be made obvious.
“The conversations are so naked in themselves that the idea of having to see two naked men wasn’t something I ever thought was missing in the script.”
Turing’s biographer Andrew Hodges previously said he was “alarmed by the inaccuracies” in the film, adding: “They have built up the relationship with Joan much more than it actually was. Their relationship is invented.”
There are further problems with the historical accuracy of The Imitation Game, notably the absurd implication that Turing may have been a traitor, read about this in fascinating Guardian article HERE.
In the jail I was enveloped by the trans community. They showed me the way. Black trans women. They were not entitled white girls, passing themselves off on the street like women born women. They were black trans women subject to everything a black women suffers (and more) on the streets of racist USA. These women are considered worthless, trash, undignified. I related to these people. They taught me more than I had learned for decades.
This winter I will be wearing couture suits. A jacket and skirt. Based on a Charles James classic. I found a brilliant couturier to make them, one in dark green tweed and another in aubergine silk velvet. They are interchangeable. Deliberately, I get four outfits for the cost of two. A lady has to look after her pennies.
My hope? To look like a lesbian geography teacher from an exclusive private girls school. I rather think I’m going to look like the chef from Two Fat Ladies, Clarissa Dickson-Wright. I have no desire to look feminine. Butch lesbians are far more attractive to me than pretty girls. If I ever had a sex change I am sure to be a lesbian.
Without the power of the penis I am a free man.
I have, these past couple of years since I left the jail, submerged myself in trans culture. My silly film about Jake became an audacious film about a trans woman and the men who chase her. My desire to reprimand my ex became a beautiful treatise on my own trans curiosity. One thing is certain. If I am true to this path I will never leave the big city. I will never live in Whitstable.
There is something about rotting pears on the pavement, wasps feeding on the smashed fruit that transports me to my hometown of Whitstable. There is something about the occasional warm day in October when I hanker for my home.
Last week I had a serious meeting about a play. I have not written a play or thought about the theatre for years. This is an exciting possibility once again. I have no desire to direct. NONE. Write… yes. Direct… no.
I met a young trans person yesterday.
There is a chasm between gay men and trans people. My friend Our Lady J disputes this but my other less glamorous, non performing blue-collar trans buddies tell horrible stories of gay people and their rudeness and transphobia. Bluntly, why should a gay man be interested in a trans woman? Gay men sleep with men… not women. However, out of their trans costumes some young working class non theatrical trans m to f are berated and insulted when they tell gay men what they are into.
If you are a young trans person where do you go to meet empathetic straight men? Many young, transitioning straight men misguidedly think they can meet men through gay dating apps like Grindr. They make their trans position clear.
He said, “I tell them I want to dress as a woman when I meet them, that it’s only going to work if I am dressed as a girl. They tell me it’s not ok. They let me wear panties but won’t tolerate anything else.”
I am taking him on a date this week. He’s excited to wear a dress and paint his nails. He says, “There are two of me, straight me wants to meet trans me and fall in love.” That was very beautiful.
I met another white gay man in NYC, an undergrad at NYU, who condescendingly lectured me about trans culture. He vehemently posited that any man who wears a skirt is transgender, that make up on a man is transgender, that drag is indisputably transgender. That the word transvestite was like saying nigger or faggot. He told me he wants to help his trans brothers and sisters at his university. What help will he be? I couldn’t be bothered to fight. We had sex and I threw him out of my room.
Since I embraced this new path I have come to love my body. No longer interested in what metropolitan gay men think I should look like to enjoy a full life. I have been watching endless documentaries. Paris is Burning versus Candy Darling. The concerns of the former oblivious to the latter.
I am looking forward to wearing my new suit in the big city. I’m excited.
Today transvestite (self described) artist, honored by Queen Elizabeth and the British Government, Grayson Perry writes brilliantly in the New Statesman about default man. Read it here.
I am responsible. When anyone, anywhere, reaches out for help, I want the hand of A.A. always to be there. And for that: I am responsible.
Today is my sober birthday. My 18th year.
The non-sober people who warmly congratulate me on my sober birthday are unaware that within the benign cult of Alcoholics Anonymous abstinence, is not good enough. The first question many non alcoholics reasonably ask, “Why, after so many years, do you still go to meetings?” The truth is, sobriety as defined by William Griffith Wilson has become an absolute way of life: a total immersion, a divine calling, a cross onto which we nail ourselves and each other, a commitment to a God of our own invention that leads unquestioningly to a daily reprieve from the disease of alcoholism.
Last week, I traveled north to East Dorset, Vermont to the birth place and grave of Bill Wilson, co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. I was shown a plank, casually nailed to the wall, behind which Bill Wilson was born. The gentleman sitting beside me pointed at it, lowering his eyes, telling the story of Bill’s birth with the same reverential gravity christians afford the Nativity. The following day I sat at my lap top and wondered out loud to fellow gay alcoholics (on a gay sober Facebook page) how things have changed since Bill W and Dr Bob Silkworth framed the beginnings of what would become a world-wide phenomenon.
Much has changed in the rooms of AA since I got sober 18 years ago. AA has evolved. When I walked into my first meeting the message was clear. AA was a ‘bridge to normal living’, it was the nearest a person like me would get to being ‘born again’. It was suggested that I look for the similarities and not the difference when people qualified. It was suggested that I find a sponsor. A sponsor is a man or woman willing to take an AA new comer through the ubiquitous 12 steps.
Men sponsoring men and women sponsoring women to avoid romantic complications.
Sponsorship used to be a humble service, a helping hand, unraveling the mysteries of AA. A familiar face to show a newby around the rooms… as well as to go through the 12 steps. That first year I did whatever I was told to do. I made tea, cleaned up cigarette butts, I diligently read the Big Book. I was advised to find a sponsor who had what I wanted… all I wanted was peace of mind. I met Vince who took me swiftly through the steps. I remained willing and teachable. Vince was the perfect introduction to AA and to him I will always be grateful. It is because of the solid foundation Vince helped me build in early sobriety that I remain sober today.
Since then, sponsorship has become a monstrous beast riven with ego, co-dependence and self-aggrandizement. Sponsors congratulate themselves for the number of sponsees they have. Sponsors throw extravagant anniversary parties, positing their bloated and wholly personal ideas about sobriety, none of which has anything to do with Bill and Bob’s original intentions. Sponsors have become demi-gods, using and abusing their sponsees at will.
They say: Call me every day, don’t have sex for a year, we’ll do this my way… or the highway.
Originally the newcomer completed the first 8 steps in a day with someone who had already completed all 12 steps. Step 8 to step 12 would be worked a few weeks later. Today sponsors can take years to go through the steps, they might not have completed the 12 steps themselves. Too many sponsors make step work as hard a task as becoming a brain surgeon.
These sponsors use the book of AA against the newcomer, a hopeful… enthusiastic day counter (a day counter is someone who publicly announces how many days sober they are until 90 days have elapsed) may become disillusioned with the huge amount of written work he or she is required to do. These ghastly sponsors tell the newcomer that they have to be thorough, scrupulously honest, that half measures avail them nothing.
Step 1: the simple act of owning up and surrender is now a protracted treatise on powerlessness and unmanageability. Step 2: accepting God into my life as a power greater than myself requiring me to bow to anything other than my own will… has become a religious conversion. Step 3: the elegant proposal that ones life has been so poorly managed that it is best handed over to a higher power or… God. Step 4: (a moral inventory) designed originally to swiftly clear away the wreckage of ones past so one might better embrace God and sobriety has become a monster of self-examination, scrutiny and fear. A monster so fearful most will not get beyond step 4 to step 5.
This is not all. There are endless stories of Sponsors taking advantage of their sponsees sexually, taking their money, abusing their trust. In gay AA, because men are sponsoring men, romantic and sexual entanglements are rife.
The problem is: many gay men I meet in AA or NA are not alcoholics or addicts. They are lonely, friendless and stuck in a miserable half-life that the gays offer in lieu of community. They are drinking and taking drugs and hooking up. The gay dream. When they realize this is all there is… they turn to AA where they find friends, fellowship and community. A frat house of sober gays who never had a drinking problem in the first place.
When real alcoholics, desperate drug addicts wander into this clean white environment the gays simply don’t know what to do. They look askance at the homeless, the beggar and scarcely offer their manicured hands.
The gays have created a ghetto at the edge of AA where they get away with murder. Literally. Only last week I heard of another man who killed himself because he couldn’t connect or feel included by gay AA. If this gay sober cabal were working to keep the majority sober (happy joyous and free) then I would have no argument with gay AA but the facts are: many, many gay men leave AA after 5 years. This is evident from the ‘countdown’ where we celebrate anniversaries. After seven years there is a chasm, a ten-year gap… between those who stayed and those who left AA.
The enthusiasm (pink cloud) a new comer experiences during the first five years tails off into abject misery as they realize AA isn’t about making friends, fucking cute sober boys and going to sober circuit parties. It is about being present for ever. For ever and ever.
As with any small, incestuous group of men and women desperately holding onto cultish beliefs… anyone who challenges what and how they believe is destined to be ostracized. It happens in Gay AA, LA AA, Men’s Stag AA. Christ, I sat in a men’s stag AA meeting above a Palisades bank at 7am for nearly a decade. I witnessed and experienced bullying, homophobia, misogyny, ageism, racism… every day. Yet, somehow within the rooms of AA, this is perfectly acceptable. I returned recently to that room above the bank after having written about the ogres who live there. Those I had written in my blog looked disgusted… then conveniently reimagined AA in their own image.
A sniveling, grey haired, Dickensian lawyer called John told the group how ‘unsafe’ he felt that I was sitting in ‘his’ home group. Choosing to ignore the AA ‘suggestions’ and ‘traditions’ he personally attacks me. His greasy hair limp on his pink, mottled forehead, his uneven yellow teeth, his waxy hands trembling with fury.
Another pompous member of that same group, perhaps the vilest of them all, surrounded by the vapid newcomers he sponsors… momentarily forgets his ‘singleness of purpose’ and tangles himself in a crippling scribble of resentment and self pity. To the amusement and horror of the other alcoholics in the room he lambasts a recent widower who had foolishly delivered a favorable pitch about forgiving and forgetting. Warning (me obviously) that he holds onto resentments… then magnificently back tracks… realizing how pathetic he sounds to those recent converts to Alcoholics Anonymous he hopes to inspire.
Too many men have left that dank room above the bank and killed themselves.
Online, the gays reacted very badly to my mild critique, my gentle questioning. They told me I wasn’t sober… that I was ‘dry’, (dry is a pejorative term in AA meaning sober without working the 12 steps of AA) they tell me to go have a drink. They tell me to leave AA. More evidence of the sickness that exists not only in gay AA but also within our larger gay community.
I am not leaving AA any time soon. If I drink (as they suggest) I will return to AA a hero. If I don’t drink I will return to AA a hero. There’s very little they, my detractors, can do. When they tell me to drink they are really telling me to kill myself… and many will attest that is exactly what the weak-willed have done. Excluded by the cult of gay AA they have taken their own lives.
Each Alcoholics Anonymous group ought to be a spiritual entity having but one primary purpose — that of carrying its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.