“Thank you, it’s just what I wanted. I’ll watch them with my mum.” The audience clapped in that polite Swedish way.
Democracy is not the be-all and end-all. What’s more important is making money for your country and making it look good while just surviving. After this weekend I think Pakistan would rather stay stooped in tribalism than succumb to western-style democracy. On Saturday I performed in the basement of a gay club in London’s West End. As I walked up to the main stage, I found a man performing in drag, dressed up as Benazir Bhutto. His two backing dancers were dressed as Pervez Musharraf in Lycra and wore different styles of moustache. One had a Hitler-style one, the other a Freddie Mercury. They were singing a karaoke version of “In the Army Now”. The audience seemed very relaxed, as if they were watching Family Fortunes.
I was surprised that Benazir had become a gay icon so soon after her comeback. I think this kind of celebration is slightly premature. And although such exhibitionism will hardly send tremors of shock around Old Compton Street, rest assured that, as the people of Pakistan struggle to express themselves, the drag queens of Britain are expressing themselves on your behalf. I wonder if, on Saturday night in the basement of a gay club in Lahore, there was a drag act in the form of Gordon Brown with backing dancers, adorned with coral lipstick and Lycra boob tubes, representing Harriet Harman and Patricia Hewitt. Pakistan doesn’t need democracy; it just needs a little camp entertainment to release its repression.
I had been asked to perform at a corporate conference for computer analysts who had gathered from all over the world for an annual meeting. There were 500 men dressed in suits and four women. Two of the women looked like men. I don’t know if this was deliberate or if they were drag queens, but they seemed pretty chuffed when they saw me. They quickly moved to the front row to offer their support, and had the best spot to catch the most bizarre ending to the show.
I have spent the week in Malmö, Sweden – where the people are so open-minded it is hard to offend them in any way at all. I had been asked to perform at a corporate conference for computer analysts who had gathered from all over the world for an annual meeting. There were 500 men dressed in suits and four women. Two of the women looked like men. I don’t know if this was deliberate or if they were drag queens, but they seemed pretty chuffed when they saw me. They quickly moved to the front row to offer their support, and had the best spot to catch the most bizarre ending to the show.
The organiser, a distinguished old gentleman, took to the stage after my performance and shook my hand. He made a short speech thanking me for coming to Sweden and then presented me with a gift. How kind, I thought. It was beautifully wrapped and, because everyone was watching, I realised it would be rude not to open it. So I excitedly ripped open the silver paper to find a pack of five DVDs, which were all porn.
I froze; I stopped breathing; I nearly fainted. What on earth was going on? Surely, it was a mistake. All those people were just staring at me, waiting for me to tell them what it was. I opened my mouth but no words came out. I just stood there. My mouth went dry.
I turned to the organiser, who smiled at me and raised his eyebrows as if to say: “Yes? Do you like them?” I frowned and said, “Are these for me?” “Of course,” he replied. I turned to the audience and said, “Thank you, it’s just what I wanted. I shall watch them with errm . . . my mum, thanks.” The audience started clapping in that polite Swedish way.
I squashed the DVDs back into the silver paper and put them in my bag. I was still hoping that maybe the esteemed, well-mannered, well-spoken organiser would realise he’d made a mistake and got his wife’s birthday present mixed up with mine. But this was not to be, and as I packed my bags for the airport the next morning I became extremely agitated that I would get stopped at customs and have to explain what seemed an unlikely story. So I decided I would have to dump them somewhere.
I went into Starbucks at the airport and ordered a hot chocolate. As I collected it I dumped the DVDs by the cookie jar. If this was Pakistan, I would never have had to do that.