Of course I knew that boys did kiss. My grandparents had two male friends who had gone through a legal adoption process so that the one man could leave his much younger lover his inheritance. My grandparents were down and out Romanov aristocrats who had become dress designers and teachers. They had incredibly cool, creative friends — many of whom were openly gay, or as open as one could be among friends in the 60’s in NYC.
But I had never seen boys kissing. Full on. Like Lovers. Not like Mediterranean straight men being affectionate. A KISS kiss.
I was 17 and a disappointed ex-virgin. My first lover was handsome but we were both inept, and straight sexual intercourse was a not terribly fulfilling experience. I went with that lover to see Sunday Bloody Sunday in the fall of 1971.
And that’s when I saw two men kiss. We were sitting close to the screen and so that kiss was BIG. I remember hearing a gasp travel through that sophisticated Manhattan East Side crowd.
My lover was freaked out by the kiss. But it was thrilling to me. Constance Penley has written about the power of gay male avatars for straight (cis) women’s fantasies, and that projection might have been part of the thrill for me. But there was something more. Like a whole new set of possibilities was opening up. I have forgotten a lot about that movie, but I never forgot the kiss.
It’s important to mention that the political disaster in Ireland which became known as Bloody Sunday had not happened when the film came out, and so when I heard the U2 song, I thought about the movie, and the words “I’m so sick of it!” became to me an anthem about the hatred of queer people, and that song for a long time, represented my wish for those men in the movie and for the many other queer people that I have come to know and love to be free of bloody days — to be free of fear and reprisals.
Sometimes a picture really is worth a 1000 words, and I will always be grateful for that screen moment that seemed to express a passion that I understood and a pleasure that I — at that stage at least — had not experienced or even imagined possible.
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