Joining the Movement
by Nigel Gordon
In what had once been the undercroft of a long demolished church the faint illumination gives shadowy form to the club members as they move around. In an alcove sit two figures, both somewhat more pale than the normal nocturnal inhabitants of this establishment. The older of the two is insistently pressing the younger for all the details of events that had taken place earlier that day. Well, one has to keep up with the gossip, doesn’t one?
All right then I’ll tell you — but no interruptions and no questions! I really did not want to attend. Marcus, though, was insistent. He said we should stand up for our own kind, and argued that that we had to do something so that we were not discriminated against. Not that I had experienced that much discrimination — at least, not since I had admitted what I was.
OK, there was the time when my family realised what I was, and after that they got me out of the house and would have nothing to do with me. All right, I found that hard—particularly so as I had not yet come to terms with what I was myself. Well, we do find it hard don’t we? Is there any one of us who can truthfully say that we’ve never tried to deny what we are; that we just want to be ‘normal’ (whatever normal is these days)? I mean, I’ve never met anyone who hasn’t been in denial at some point.
Anyway, as I was saying, Marcus was insistent. How he had found out about the meeting I don’t know. Well, really, it’s not the sort of thing you can advertise in the local press or by putting posters on lamp posts. The local newspaper, sensitive as it is to the local views would not accept the advert for fear of upsetting their readership. Don’t they ever think that we might be part of their readership? As for the posters on the lamp posts, they would soon be torn down. Can you imagine how Brother Michael at the Church of Christ the Reborn, and his lot of fundamentalist Christians, would react to the idea that we were going to be holding a meeting? I strongly suspect that they would have come along and burnt the meeting hall down with us inside it. You know… you hear of that sort of thing, don’t you?
That was another reason I was not keen on going along — I thought there might be trouble. One thing I did not want was trouble. Well, I mean, I had just got my life on a nice settled plane. I had a really rough patch coming to terms with what I am and it was not easy. Then I met Marcus and the two of us got on like a house on fire… well, that might not be the best phrase to use given my earlier comment about fire, but you know what I mean. We had found ourselves this wonderful place, with neighbours just like us, and were settling in nicely. I know we are not a large community at that end of the town but it is nice and comfortable and we all support each other. All right, I complain about Trixie’s dog. I’m sorry, but I don’t think it is right to have a dog in a place like that — there are just no facilities for it—but I have no problem with Trixie and her partner. In fact, I get on quite well with her partner, who incidentally shares my view about the dog, though for God’s sake don’t mention that to Trixie. She is besotted with the mutt.
Anyway, as I was saying, after a few rough years I’ve got things sorted out and I’m comfortable with what I am. Well, darling, you have to be, don’t you? If you are not you soon find that you’re tearing yourself apart. It’s like those two old dears up at St Cuthbert’s. Everybody knows what they are but they deny it all the time. They try to pretend they are perfectly normal and you can see the strain that is putting on them. How they’ve managed to carry on as long as they have, I don’t know. I know I could not have done it, but then again I’m not a Christian fundamentalist—or any form of Christian for that matter.
Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against Christians. In my time I have met some very nice Christians, and some who really understand the concept of Christian charity. It’s just that I can’t understand how it is that those like us can reconcile what they are with what is in the Bible. In my opinion the two just don’t go together, but that is just my opinion. I’m sure you have your own.
Anyway Marcus dragged me along to this meeting, and I do mean dragged. It was in this meeting hall just off Brown Street; used to be an old chapel. Well there was no way you would normally find me down in that part of town, you know the reputation it has. But Marcus insisted that we had to go. Well, it’s all right for him, he’s six foot four and built like a tank. Nobody seeing him would for a moment suspect what he is. They probably think he is a Rugby prop forward out for a night on the town. As for me, well darling, you really can’t mistake what I am. I don’t try to look like this; it just happens. I told Marcus that I was not happy being down in that part of town. Well, you heard what happened to that poor lad back in April—that was just off Brown Street, as I pointed out to Marcus. He told me not to worry, he was with me. He did have a point; who’s going to take Marcus on? Not anyone with half a brain. The problem is, some of those gangs that hang around that part of town seem to have substantially less than half a brain between the lot of them, let alone each.
In the end though it was not problem, probably because there were so many of us around. I don’t know where they all came from; I did not know there were that many of us in town. Once we got to the other side of High Street we were everywhere, all moving down towards Brown Street. By time we got to the hall there must have been three or four hundred of us. I must tell you that was an eye opener. Well, you know how it is, you tend to think you are unique; that is, till you meet others like yourself. But I never would have thought that there were that many of us. There were though—and all of us in that tiny meeting hall. Well, it’s not that small, but darling, when you had that many of us together it was a bit of a squeeze. Good job Marcus clung onto me or I would have been lost.
Some chap in black leather and studs climbed up on the platform at the end of the hall, and thanked us all for coming. He said he knew that it could not have been easy for us to come; that he understood many of us were exposing ourselves to view for the first time. Well, darling, it may have been the first time for some people, but some of us have been exposing ourselves for ages. But we knew what he meant. Anyway, he introduced this guy, Seymour, who then went up onto the platform.
Well, you could have knocked me down with a feather. Seymour, it turned out, was the old guy from number twenty. You know, the tall guy with the long grey hair, doesn’t say much? Well, he really had something to say once he was on that platform. He started out with things that we have all heard a million times. You know, how many of us there really are, and how we should not have to hide what we are, that we should be out and proud. I thought, ‘Yes, dear, easier said than done!’ Then he got on to how we are being actively discriminated against. I had never thought of it like that, but once you start to look into it, we are. There are a thousand and one little ways they make things difficult for us, and Seymour listed the lot.
Let me tell you, by time he had been speaking for twenty minutes I was with him. To be honest, by that time I was not only with him, I was in front of him. I wanted to get out there and let them know what was what; that we were not prepared to be discriminated against any more, and that we wanted fair and equal treatment. Marcus, of course, had never thought I would go for it like that. I think I scared him a bit. Well, I mean, he had never seen me once I’d got my dander up, and Seymour certainly got me going.
Well, at the end of his speech, Seymour called on us to march on the Town Hall and demand our rights; demand that they put an end to discrimination. I shouted, “Yes, that’s the way to go!” and pushed forward to the front. There was a whole crush of us around the platform, all eager to go out and show them that we were standing up for our rights. In the melee Marcus lost contact with me, and by the time he found me we were busy organising the order for the march. Somebody was handing out placards and banners — I’ve no idea when they had been made —and others were agreeing to act as marshals. The girl from number ten and I had grabbed a banner that read ‘Equality Now’. Seymour told us we should lead the march. Marcus asked me if I thought that was a good idea, and suggested it might be going a bit too far. I told him not to worry.
Anyway, darling, we all piled out of the meeting hall and assembled in Brown Street. And didn’t that get some looks from the locals, but they had more sense than to try and tackle the whole lot of us. The girl from number ten and I unfurled the banner between us. We both had to hold onto our poles for dear life; well, there was quite a breeze and that banner really caught the wind. That young chap who has the nice place just inside the entrance to St Giles was there. He had a drum, and was beating out the rhythm to Chopin’s Sonata No. 2 in B-Flat Minor; a couple of the lads started to whistle it, which I admit sounded a bit strange.
Well, as you can imagine, as we started down Brown Street we attracted a crowd of onlookers. Strangely enough they were not all that hostile. In fact, a few were quite supportive. Some of them even joined us in our march, but I don’t think they felt all that comfortable; most dropped out pretty quickly. Well, you know how it is and how other people feel when they’re around us.
Anyway, news of the march must have got ahead of us. By the time we got to the end of Brown Street and turned into Corporation Street there were some really large crowds of onlookers — and some of these were not so nice. In fact, a few were quite abusive. One of those fundamentalist Christians came out and started ranting at us that we were “Abominations before the Lord”, and telling us that we were doomed to an eternity in hell. Comments like that were starting to come thick and fast as we approached the Town Hall.
That is when things went wrong for me. I had forgotten about my brother. Well, I mean, my family have had nothing to do with me since they got me out of the house, so why should I think about them? As we moved into the Square there was a line of police in front of the Town Hall. In the middle of the line was the Chief Superintendent… my brother Graham.
Seymour led the march forward till we were about ten paces away from the police, and then he stopped.
Graham looked at me. “Philip, what the fuck are you doing here?”
“Standing up for my rights,” I replied.
“But you’re dead!”
“What’s that got to do with it? I’ve still got rights.”
Many thanks to Alien Son for reading, commenting on and editing this story, without his input it would not be what it is. Any remaining mistakes are mine.
Copyright © 2013 Nigel Gordon