Scotland is serving some serious LGBT love this month with an acclaimed gay feature film, an official pardon and the first ever “Waacking and Voguing Festival” in the country famous for kilts, castles, gingers and stunning coastlines.
Set in the north of England and Scotland, God’s Own Country has received critical acclaim and numerous festival awards. The film is an uplifting romance, set against the breathtaking countryside, following two rugged, young farmers who fall in love. It’s Brokeback Mountain without the tragic ending. The film recently opened to strong box office in New York and Los Angeles.
God’s Own Country portrays gay love as part of the tapestry of a country, which until recently, still criminalized homosexual acts. In fact, consensual homosexual acts for men over 21 were only decriminalized in 1981, and it wasn’t until 2001 that the age of consent was lowered to 16 – the same age for heterosexuals. Many Scottish men alive today still have criminal convictions for gay acts on their records.
That all changed this week, when first minister Nicola Sturgeon offered an unequivocal apology to gay men convicted of homosexual offenses. Scottish Parliament also released the Historical Sexual Offences (Pardons and Disregards) bill that would officially pardon all gay men, dead or alive, of previous convictions. Sturgeon called it “shocking” that consenting sexual activity between men in Scotland was still classified as criminal until so recently. The bill, which goes into effect in January, will allow men with convictions to apply for a formal “disregard” to completely remove the conviction from all criminal records.
Scottish LGBT are celebrating the apology and pardon bill all over the country. It is fitting that Scotland’s largest city, Glasgow, hosted the country’s first “Waacking and Voguing Festival” just last weekend. The festival celebrated the two distinct dance styles that originated in the 1970’s and 1980’s LGBT underground club scenes in LA and New York. Waacking is an offshoot of Punking, an LA-based LGBT dance scene for black, Latino and Asian men, inspired by Hollywood stars from the 1950’s and their over-acting style. Voguing originated from black gay men in New York in the 1980’s underground ballroom scene. “Mothers” and “Fathers” of the Vogue community would run rival Houses named after high fashion brands such as Dior and Cartier. Of course, Madonna brought the dance form to global recognition with her 1990 iconic single and the video, showcasing seven Vogue dancers.
The Glasgow-based festival was formed as Scotland’s dance scene begins to gain momentum. Renowned London Vogue dancer Jay Jay Revlon, founder of the Kiki House of Tea dance group, who DJed the festival’s Cosmopolitan Ball put forth some realness in noting that, “It’s really important to have a community that is respecting the history,” adding, “Vogue gives queer people a place, a way of reclaiming space. At balls, there are multiple emotions going on. There are laughter, there are tears, joy and anger.”
Indeed, Scotland was feeling the love this week with great strides made for the country’s LGBT community who are celebrating with laughter, tears, joy and fierce dance.