Saturday, October 31, 2009
There are people who'll say turning up to the candelit vigil for Ian Baynham was the wrong thing to do. You know - it won't achieve much; it's easy to make an empty gesture without having to engage messily with the real issues; you'll have to listen to the London Gay Men's Chorus. But sometimes you just do stuff anyway.
And I'm glad we did. To start with, it looked like an utter wash-out. Joe and I turned up to Trafalgar Square at 7pm and there were a couple of hundred gays and some candles. It looked like any Ikea on a Saturday morning.
But we had a nice seat on a fountain, and we waited. An hour later, you couldn't move. Trafalgar Square was filled. It's rare that you see that - just the sheer number of thousands of people just standing there with twinkling candles, filling every corner and all the way up the steps of the National Gallery. It's just impressive.
Especially as it went on for two and a half hours. The best speech was from Ian's friends who told us all the proper human things about the man - that he was a terrible cook and liked old films and that made him a little bit less of a symbol and a little bit more of a man who really didn't deserve to be kicked to death in Trafalgar Square.
And then there were endless speeches from, oh let's make it up, the Co-Chair Of London Lesbi-Gay-Trandgender-Equal-Diversitas. You know, "I'd just like to agree with everything that's been said before and to agree that, in addition, we should all unite and stand together against..." bliddy blah. We are standing together, comrade. There's ten thousand of us here, right now, with candles and it's sodding cold, so will you shut up so we can all go to a bar before it rains, please?
The candles were a mixed bunch - Ikea had donated a few thousand, we'd bought along some candle-holders, some had improvised theirs out of coffee cups, and a couple next to us had brought along a scented bathroom candle that filled the air with a tang of honey and vanilla.
The two minutes' silence was as tragic and funny as these things always are. We stood there, mute, as a police car on its way somewhere jolly important threw on the sirens and then sat motionless behind a bendy bus. Thanks the police. And also thanks to the speaker who pointed out that the conviction rate for homophobic hate crimes is less than 1 per cent. Which makes you think "well, I'm right to be worried every time I leave a bar alone. And not just because I'm leaving a bar alone."
After the silence came (unexpected joy!) Sue Perkins reading (unexpected horror!) a list of the victims over the last few months. It was a surprisingly long list.
And that was about it, really. Having mocked the appearance of anti-BNP protestors last week, I'm smugly pleased that we were a fucking good looking crowd. I begged Joe to check Grindr on his iPhone, but he said it would explode.
So, instead, we went to a pub. And then, fittingly, on the walk back to the Tube, I got obviously and stunningly cruised. The guy was amazing - not just good-looking but his sheer bold cheek, outside Leicester Square on a Friday night. And I turned, and looked back at him. And he looked back at me, and then with a smile and a wave, vanished into the night.