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Writings for seXshunned

The Well
by Monte Hennegin

Many years ago - oh so long ago,
Before the war that many do not recall,
There was a book which is available still,
A controversial tale by Radclyffe Hall,
The title of which haunts me to this day,
A chronicle of intolerance and prejudice,
Of a woman who had the yearnings of a man,
The classic called 'The Well of Loneliness'.

Although still so young I was aware
My nature differed from my fellow peers,
Who seemed to sense my deviant ways,
And ostracised me through the years.
Confused and certain I was unique,
Convinced no others would feel the same as I,
The spectre of the Well was ever there,
Increasing my loneliness as time went by.

An awakening came in my early teens,
For I found a kindred deviant friend.
We recognised then we were not alone,
Realising that others also possessed the trend.
Among our associates cautiously questing,
Others, too, soon became discovered then.
Loneliness assuaged, the spectre of the Well
Soon faded completely from my ken.

The halcyon days of Boarding School,
With its adolescent sexual experimentation,
When lusty liaisons and bonds were formed,
Cemented by erotic acts and mutual masturbation,
Ended as the arms of mighty nations clashed,
And our world was overwhelmed by war.
Thrown into the maelstrom of the conflict,
Of the Well I thought no more.

The tedium of 'square bashing' at the base
Ended when an active posting came.
It was the one for which I'd prayed -
To North Africa and the Desert Campaign.
One hectic week in Cairo's gay environs,
Then Alamein and across the Desert Plain.
The Well was now truly in the past,
For it was an all-male environment again.
Long stretches of Mediterranean Coast,
With our camp set up close at hand,
Inhibitions discarded with our clothes,
In nudity crossing the burning sand.
With appraisal of young lithe bodies,
It was natural that intimacy occurred -
And the memory of the Well
Receded into the past - becoming blurred.

Extended periods of enforced celibacy
Resulting from female company deprivation,
Induced men to turn to their own sex,
In need of compulsive urgent gratification.
There were many of those, of my ilk,
Who took advantage of the circumstances.
And the spectre of the Well,
Became mere, vague, reminiscences.

Returning home, the war now over,
There ensued a time of laissé faire,
A glorious time of homoerotic freedom.
Despite the homophobic laws being there,
Which, except in cases of blatant soliciting,
They, strangely, were seldom pressed.
So in this time of general tolerance,
The concept of the Well was non est.

It was the media that started a vendetta:
The Sunday Pictorial leading the way
In the early 50's by printing 'Evil Men' -
A diatribe of men leading youths astray.
Their next target, Lord Montague, was hounded,
Pursued by them like a pack at bay.
In the spate of homophobia,
The Well had truly come to stay.

Good can come out of evil, so it's said.
The Home Secretary's castigation o'er the affair
Led, eventually, to the Wolfenden Report,
Causing the first glimmer of legality to appear -
In certain circumstances we were decriminalised.
It was the start of a long, hard fight.
And the Well again began to fade,
But ephemerally remained in sight.

The media had stirred up a hornet's nest.
Consequently drawing those they had denigrated
Into a countrywide flurry of activity.
Organisations and Societies proliferated
The Campaign for Homosexual Equality, in London:
In the North, The Homosexual Reform Society.
Being a peripheral participant I found
The Well hovered with uncertainty.

From North Wales University, a lecturer,
Tony Dyson, became an active lobbyist,
Sending a letter to over thirty prominent people
Among them, Lord Atlee was on the list.
Gradually, oh so gradually, was eroded
The homophobia of the Establishment.
Experiencing alternate hope and despair,
The Well alternately came and went.

Ten years on and in the Stonewall Riots,
The 'Queens' at last revolted against oppression.
The results reverberated around the world,
With 'equality' becoming the great obsession.
Even the derogatory epithets were abandoned:
No longer 'Queers' we now became 'Gay'.
Despite our tentative acceptance,
The Well tenaciously continued to stay.

Slowly, but inexorably, progress was made,
And I lived in hopes of seeing equality,
For many now had taken up the fight.
Then in 1981 disaster struck our fraternity,
For AIDS made an untimely appearance,
And soon as the 'Gay Plague' became known.
With the upsurge of homophobic venom,
The image of the Well had once more grown.

In the wake of the pandemic fears,
Stonewall led a vigorous Crusade,
Slowly eroding the homophobic stand.
A lowering of the 'age of consent' was made,
While prominent people defiantly 'Came Out',
The tension of our lifestyle easing.
I felt euphoria for the relaxing views,
But the Well hovered - never disappearing.

Reminiscing in the twilight of my life,
There have been liaisons ... quite a few,
But in the long passage of the years
Of lasting partners, there were but two.
And now in my advancing age,
Living alone has become the trend.
Alone, yes, but not lonely, so the Well
No longer menaces, but has become a friend.

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