Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Misleading Monikers, Unless You're Called Monica

In my recent piece on things supposed to indicate that a man is gay I didn't mention that other absurdity: Christian names that are supposedly gay.
At one time Nigel and Trevor were regarded as gay names, at least by comedy writers. 'Nigel brought his friend Trevor to the party' was enough to get a laugh.

Julian has always been a gay name and not, I think, just because it was one of the names in Kenneth Williams' and Hugh Paddick's camp double act in Round the Horne.
Sebastian is another. It's the name of David Walliams' gay Prime Ministerial aide in Little Britain. But it was also the name of a Derek Jarman film and I think Saint Sebastian is supposed to be some kind of gay icon.

Any uncommon name like Cedric or Tarquin is likely to be regarded as gay. I once lied to a lesbian in a pub and told her my name was Tarquin. She was very drunk and for the rest of the evening called me 'Terrapin'. She said I needed to come out of my shell a bit more. (I made the last bit up. But I wish she had).

A quick bit of internet research tells me that Bruce and Roger are considered gay names in America. Whereas in Britain Bruce is the archetypal name of an aggressively heterosexual Australian and Roger is the basis for a thousand double entendres.
I also found that a conference in America last year had discussed papers on gay names although these focused on fictional names, nicknames and drag queen's names, which is rather different. One paper was called 'Drag Kings: Creating a Name in a More Socially Conscious Performance Space.' Do performance spaces have consciousness? And do we have Drag Kings in Britain? Presumably, women dressed as men. I haven't heard of any since the days of Music Hall but then I lead a sheltered life.

Christian names can be indicative of class and the form of the name used can be indicative of politics. I have a theory that Michael is Conservative, Mike is Labour and Mick is Communist or Socialist Workers Party.
But the idea that a name chosen by someone else, often before your gender let alone your sexuality is known, can proclaim to the world that you are gay is blatantly ludicrous yet seemingly widely believed.


In response to an impassioned plea from Peter (see Comments) I now add Quentin to my list.
In doing so, it's worth making the point that the presumed 'gayness' of a name will be reinforced if it's associated with a high profile, if untypical, gay man like the late Quentin Crisp. In the same way, Julian Clary will have done nothing to help restore 'Julian' to an orientationally-neutral status.


At 12:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I dunno, Willie, but I reckon the famous operatic bass-baritone John Shirley-Quirk got a bit of bovver at school. But then, he probably didn't go to a secondary modern in Grimsby.

- Tony -

At 4:37 PM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

Then again, if he'd shown an interest in opera at Grimsby secondary modern he'd have had problems even if his name was Kevin Pickersgill.

At 8:12 PM, Anonymous Peter said...

Quentin! Quentin! Quentin! Quentin! (At risk of repetition.)

Not only His Sublime Ancientness, now sadly gone, but fictionally there's Uncle Quentin in the Famous Five - an innocent scientist in Enid Blyton's hands, until the Comic Strip got hold of him and had him shagging (can we say that) Julian.

How could you overlook Quentin? Please add him to your list.

At 8:37 AM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

Peter: post updated as per your request.
Assuring you of our best attention at all times.


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