* 200 articles. Two years. Whelk. The best of Upsideclown. Might be reprinted.

Ballroom Blitz

28 November 2002
Dan's exploring foreign territory (extract from a complete article)

For a while I said "berdache", until eventually one of them took me aside and explained, politely, in a slim, pale voice, that if I didn't stop doing that then somebody would break a bottle over my head.

It's the sort of slip that comes easily, thanks to the lack of education about this strange new people. It was explained that berdache was a European coining, originally pressed upon the first peoples of North America by colonists. Derived from the Persian for a young male lover, this term was used instead of any number of terms in the hundreds of original languages now struggling against extinction. This particular tribe was known as the Sweet.

It was the first time I had heard the term "first peoples" used in everyday conversation. However, I suspected that "political correctness", whatever that meant, was not an accusation to be levelled lightly. This group of tattooed young men and women, sitting on the floor of a flat in a converted hosiery factory, clearly took their heritage very seriously, even when it was not in the strictest sense their heritage.

Joahn, refilling my cup of aromatic tea, tried a different tack. I tried to take it all in.

"It's not as strange as you think. You're a man, right? You've got these characteristics that identify you as male - a hairy chest, a pair of testicles, a penis; all stuff I have as well. But that just makes you male. When you get up in the morning, you look at yourself in the mirror and see a man. What makes you a man? Not just your penis, or your hairy nostrils. It's a set of characteristics and expectations that constitute manhood. Goats are male, but they aren't men."

I offer that they are Billies, and get nothing but a funny look.

"Try it this way. You wake up tomorrow, and you look in the mirror. But you don't see a man anymore. You see somebody tall. You divide everyone up into the tall people and the short people. Some of both sets of people have penises - or is it penes? I've never really need to deal with that many at a time -and some have vaginas, just like some of them have black hair and some of them have blond hair. It's just a physiological difference, not a vital part of their identity. Yeah? But what if you don't feel tall or short? You're tall next to an oompa-loompa, short next to an elephant. You can't wake up in the morning, look at yourself in the mirror and say to yourself 'I am tall'."

I am not tall. For the record.

"Same thing happened to me, and to the rest of these people. We woke up and realised that we weren't men and we weren't women. We weren't women who wanted to be men, or men who wanted to be women. We weren't hermaphrodites, we weren't homosexuals or transexuals. We were Sweet. Adorable, in fact."

A light laugh, and the rustle of silk as Joahn's long, muscular body unfolds itself from the floor to stretch. Perhaps it is fitting that the heart of this movement grew up in the East Midlands, home of the old hosiery business, since the simple joy taken in personal adornment and dress was apparent throughout the group.

In 1843 a Connecticut town found that a member of its community with a penis and testicles, but who menstruated and had a vaginal opening, wanted to vote in a close election. The examining doctor first identified the applicant as a man, but the opinion was revised when "his feminine propensities, such as fondness for gay colors, for pieces of calico, comparing and placing them together, and an aversion for bodily labor and an inability to perform the same, were remarked by many". Nobody knows whether he (or she) was allowed the vote or not.

I remembered my own childhood not more than 20 miles down the road. In the playground, due to the peculiarities of the dialect, half-understood accusations of effeminacy sounded strangely flirtatious.

"You're sweet, you are. You're a sweet boy."

"Yeah? Well you're the sweetest boy in school. Even the headmaster thinks you're sweet."

I ask Joahn if this was an attempt to reclaim the term. Another feathery laugh. He has the longest eyelashes I have ever seen on a man, or a male, or whatever.

"No....I only found out about that after we moved here. It's a bit embarrassing, but I sort of enjoy it. The way it messes with peoples heads. To be honest, I was thinking about the band. You know, "Ballroom Blitz"? Hairy-shouldered guitarists with bricklayer's arses wearing cocktail dresses and slap. It seemed....amusingly inappropriate, I guess. I suppose if it gets too embarrassing we can always change it. We talk a lot about names here. And the future. And sex. We talk about sex a lot."

I wish I was better at reading signals. I have a feeling that Joahn is coming on to me. I wouldn't know where to start.

"So how about you? What do you see when you look into the mirror in the morning, Dan?"

I feel like a traitor to the future when I tell him my wife uses the bathroom first, so I don't see much but condensed steam.


This is the fucking archive

Current clown:

18 December 2003. George writes: This List

Most recent ten:

15 December 2003. Jamie writes: Seven Songs
11 December 2003. Dan writes: Spinning Jenny
8 December 2003. Victor writes: Rock Opera
4 December 2003. Matt writes: The Mirrored Spheres of Patagonia
1 December 2003. George writes: Charm
27 November 2003. James writes: On Boxing
24 November 2003. Jamie writes: El Matador del Amor; Or, the Man who Killed Love
20 November 2003. Dan writes: Rights Management
17 November 2003. Victor writes: Walking on Yellow
13 November 2003. Matt writes: Disintermediation
(And alas we lost Neil, who last wrote Cockfosters)

Also by this clown:

11 December 2003. Dan writes: Spinning Jenny
20 November 2003. Dan writes: Rights Management
30 October 2003. Dan writes: My only goal
9 October 2003. Dan writes: The Knot
18 September 2003. Dan writes: The Engelbart Elephant
28 August 2003. Dan writes: The Amity Index
7 August 2003. Dan writes: This Sporting Life
17 July 2003. Dan writes: Touch
26 June 2003. Dan writes: Metadata
5 June 2003. Dan writes: Street Mate
15 May 2003. Dan writes: Usher's Well
24 April 2003. Dan writes: Medicamenta
3 April 2003. Dan writes: Weapons of Mass Construction
13 March 2003. Dan writes: David Sneddon, Bukake Secret Agent
20 February 2003. Dan writes: Mary Sue
30 January 2003. Dan writes: Bait and Switch
9 January 2003. Dan writes: What Never Happened
19 December 2002. Dan writes: Sermon on the Mount the Face
28 November 2002. Dan writes: Ballroom Blitz
7 November 2002. Dan writes: The Photographer
17 October 2002. Dan writes: Diaphragmatic
26 September 2002. Dan writes: A life in the day
5 September 2002. Dan writes: Different Class
15 August 2002. Dan writes: Story and sequel
25 July 2002. Dan writes: Fellatious
4 July 2002. Dan writes: Skin Mag
10 June 2002. Dan writes: The Ibizan book of the Dead
16 May 2002. Dan writes: The Sissons Situation
22 April 2002. Dan writes: UpsideClown and Out in Hollywood
28 March 2002. Dan writes: Nereus' Daughters
4 March 2002. Dan writes: Diomedes
7 February 2002. Dan writes: Text Only
14 January 2002. Dan writes: Civil Engineering
20 December 2001. Dan writes: Nativity
26 November 2001. Dan writes: The Wedding Band
1 November 2001. Dan writes: what dreans mecum?
8 October 2001. Dan writes: Stop me if you've heard this one before
13 September 2001. Dan writes: Mother of the Muses
20 August 2001. Dan writes: I say I say I say
26 July 2001. Dan writes: Bigger, Better, Brother
2 July 2001. Dan writes: Hecatomb
7 June 2001. Dan writes: Dispassionate Leave
14 May 2001. Dan writes: Small Town Boy
19 April 2001. Dan writes: Maintaining the Driving Line
26 March 2001. Dan writes: Cut and Paste
1 March 2001. Dan writes: Redemption
5 February 2001. Dan writes: Blyton the Face of the Earth
8 January 2001. Dan writes: Smoke Signals
18 December 2000. Dan writes: The Loa Depths
23 November 2000. Dan writes: The Limits of Melissa Joan Hart
30 October 2000. Dan writes: Shiftwork
5 October 2000. Dan writes: Dawson
11 September 2000. Dan writes: Testing Times
17 August 2000. Dan writes: Onanova
3 July 2000. Dan writes: Roboto il Diavolo

Let meeeeeee entertain you

We are all Upsideclown: Dan, George, James, Jamie, Matt, Neil, Victor.

Material is (c) respective authors. For everything else, there's

Never come here again

And weeeeeee can entertain you by email too. Get fresh steaming Upsideclown in your inbox Mondays and Thursdays, and you'll never need to visit this website again. To subscribe, send the word subscribe in the body of your mail to (To unsubscribe, send the word unsubscribe instead.)


... On this page: ... Archive ... About ... Subscribe ... ... Upsideclone