The 70’s were the decade of liberation. The ‘80s were scarred by the ravages of AIDS. During the ‘90s everybody wanted to turn into a designer-clad gym bunny. But what would a gay Rip van Winkle have missed if he fell asleep in the year 2000 and woke up yesterday? A look-back on everything we will remember -and some things we’d rather forget- from the first decade of the 21st century.
Queer as Folk
Not just another TV show, but a pink revolution on the small screen. The lives of five gay friends and a lesbian couple compressed in five seasons where nothing was beyond the pale: from Hiv, drugs and homophobic violence to parent-children relationships, sex, love and family. A whole generation of greek viewers had to stay up until 3am -the slot where greek networks had scheduled the series- to catch the show or had to programme the VCR instead – don’t forget that before we had even heard of downloads and DVDs we still had to rely on the VCR…
The charms of a run-down neighborhood that we had to spruce up just in time for the 2004 Olympics turned the former gasworks area to the south of the Acropolis from Gkazi to “Gay-zi”. A few yeas later any hope that Athens would turn into a magnet for the international gay crowds now seem utopically far-fetched. With the suburban crowds storming the brand new metro station, gay nightlife in the greek capital looks almost as predictable as its straight counterpart: small, overcrowded venues, limited music policy, an area that turned from party capital to a weekend chore. Only the saunas seem to thrive…
When a south-african couple launched Gaydar in August 1999, even they couldn’t imagine what was about to follow. Why would anyone freeze in the park or wait endless hours at the bar when you could find “what you want, when you want it” with just a click on the lap-top screen? Body stats and headless photos with or without underwear in front of the bathroom mirror became a pre-requisite and terms like “looking for real” and “top, bottom, vers” relegated traditional gay slang to the wasteland of TV comedy shows and gossip rags. Internet cruising familiarised homos with the world-wide web as nothing ever could and helped them take over everything from blogs and Twitter to YouTube and Facebook….
Marriage and having a family
The Netherlands sent the ball rolling back in 2001 when they became the first country in the world to recognize same-sex marriage. Since then seven more nations, five U.S. states and the mayor of Tilos island have all followed in their lead. Marriage equality became a hot-button political issue in developed nations and an excuse to persecute homosexuals in under-developed ones. Let’s hope that in ten-years’ time all this will be a distant memory and everybody will be able to enjoy equal rights. Because time flies and the patience of second-class citizens is also running out fast.
It took a taiwanese director to turn a 50-page novel about the forbidden love between two cow-boys into the biggest gay movie romance of all time. Ang Lee’s film may not have won the Academy award for Best Movie but it became the most successful gay-themed film of all time and made the word “Brokeback” a by-word for closeted Hollywood professionals. It gave the prematurely lost Heath Ledger his opportunity to shine on the big screen and to all of us moments –like the one with the two shirts, one carefully tucked inside the other- that we will never forget in decades to come…
The man responsible for the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2004 Athens Olympics is among the very rare out gay artists living and working in Greece and the only one who acquired the status of a national icon. It still remains to be seen whether he can manage the difficult transition from “avant-garde creator” to “national asset”. But in a bleak era where the optimism of 2004 seems like a far-away memory, his vision, awareness and sensibility now seem more urgent than ever.
What started as a timid demonstration of a few hundred people back in 2005 has since turned into an annual institution that attracts thousands to the streets of Athens for one Saturday every June. What still eludes the Athens Pride however is turning into more than an once-a-year celebration and helping to spawn an efficient civil-rights movement all year round. Finding imitators in other greek cities or even in Cyprus would also help…
A term that was coined back in 2002 to describe men who take care of themselves and spend on their physical appearance without necessarily being gay. Metrosexuals became every marketing manager’s dream and created a fledging industry for young, athletic celebrities who could exploit their narcissism and cash in on avid gay consumers along the way. Celebrities like David Beckham, Christiano Ronaldo as well as the french Dieux du Stade rugby players who were endlessly imitated by other teams ever since posing for their first naked calendar in 2001.
Eurovision’s rising up from the dead
The mass entry of young nations eager for victory, the abolition of the “mother tongue” rule and the participation of the audience through telephone voting breathed new life into a song contest that during the previous decade was slowly getting choked from an overdose of irish ballads. At a time where TV screens are awash with talent shows, the “gay Champions’ League” has managed to retain its primal camp appeal and turn into a gigantic affair reminiscent of american award shows. For the greek audience one victory (in 2005) as well as a succession of top-10 finishes have turned the contest into the most-watched TV programme year after year.
Sex and the City
Men, shoes and cosmopolitan cocktails. In other words the most successful american show and the biggest Gay Icons of the decade. Four big-city ladies who could have very well been gay men (that way perhaps the show would have made more sense). Except that if they were men we wouldn’t get the chance to gawk at all those designer outfits…
The decade’s ultimate gay sex-symbol: just like Joe D’Alessandro in the ‘70s, Jeff Stryker in the ‘80s and the Bel-Ami boys in the ‘90s, François became the decade’s hottest star in porn and a source of inspiration for gay artists from Pierre & Gilles to Bruce La Bruce. No matter what your type is, this frenchman has it all and that’s the secret of his appeal: boyish man and manly boy, hairy hunk and submissive toy, a wild tatooed skull crowning over dreamy eyes and dazzling smile…
In a decade when thanks to new drug cocktails nobody died of Aids anymore, the message of safe sex was lost on a younger generation. Campaigns of information became more and more rare. Party drugs that turn off sexual inhibitions became all the rage in gay clubs. In “amateur” porn-sites all over the internet bareback went from forbidden to banal. And the number of new infections keeps rising. Let’s hope this is just a passing fad – the faster it passes, the better…
Cheap airfare from no-frills airlines and the tendency of greek gays to shed their inhibitions faster when they are abroad has meant that Europe’s twin B’s became the favourite destination of greek travellers for 5-day or even 3-day escapes leaving cities like London, Paris and Amsterdam in the dust. I wonder if we go there to find what we don't have at home or we don’t even find it necessary to reach up to their level since it’s so easy to drop in for a visit anyway…
The man who won the 2004 Booker Prize (the highest accolade for an english-speaking writer) proved with “The Line of Beauty” that gay life and culture could provide the material for great literature and that he is one of the greatest writers alive today. Not only did he visit Greece on his book tour but we have the fortune of having access to all his works through greek translations.
It was the decade that macho brazilians replaced eastern-european twinks as the hottest collective gay fantasy. Even if you don’t take a brazilian boyfriend (like Madonna did), men from Brazil became the hottest properties in international modelling with neighboring countries like Argentina and Cuba providing the only competition. Brazilian beauties, brazilian films, brazilian vacations, even brazilian flip-flops (the “havajanas”): it was the decade nobody could escape the cariocas’ sex-appeal.
Blood in the Middle East
Gays and lesbians in middle-eastern countries would rather forget the decade just past. Egypt, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq provided a grim list of countries where gays could be trapped, arrested, tortured, judged in cangaroo-courts, murdered by death-squads or executed. Fundamentalists have decided to pick on the most vulnerable social group to punish what they see as “western decadence”. No matter that homosexuality is not a western import but has been part of middle-eastern cultures for centuries. Or that europeans used to travel in those parts to taste the freedoms they couldn’t enjoy at home. What would C.P Cavafy say if he were alive today?
Well, since we can’t be ten years younger, maybe we have to settle with being ten years wiser :-)
And what about you? What would you remember from the ‘00s?