We have the Scots to thank for a variety of cool, gay-friendly things, chief among them, of course, the lovely actors Tilda Swinton (insert collective sigh from lesbian readers here . . .), Alan Cumming, and Ewan McGregor (. . . and a sigh from the fellas here). And don't forget the fey, indie-pop peddlers Belle & Sebastian and Camera Obscura, who might not be gay but are sensitive enough to sing a twee lyric such as ''He likes to read books written for girls."
Unless you've kept up with what's going on in Glasgow, though, chances are you don't even realize there's a thriving gay and lesbian arts scene, highlighted in glorious Technicolor by the city's annual Glasgay! festival. This year, the 11-year-old event unfolds Nov. 1-14, with a slightly tweaked approach to its self-promotion.
''We deliberately dropped our old strap line, 'the UK's largest multi-art form festival for multi-sexual people and their friends!' Too much emphasis on sex and never boast about being the largest," says Steven Thomson, the festival's producer. ''I wanted to shift the attention away from labeling gay people as just sexual beings. I want to show gay people in all their wonderful, quirky, queer diversity. Our aim is to promote this work to the wider community to build notions of tolerance and understanding of gay people as positive role models in society. Hence the 'celebration of queer culture.' "
It is indeed an eclectic, far-reaching celebration, the kind of kitchen-sink affair you could get only in Europe. From Scottish and international artists (including Americans Tim Miller, Annie Sprinkle, and Penny Arcade), there will be theater, films, transgender performance art, standup comedy, burlesque, warbling folk musicians, jazz ensembles, and more. Events take place in arts venues across the city, and financing, believe it or not, comes from the local and national governments and corporate sponsors.
Thomson says a group of professional artists started Glasgay! to ''highlight the work of LGBT artists in a more positive light. At the time, the UK's conservative government had passed Section 28 laws banning the promotion of homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle. Glasgay! was a political response to that oppression."
Nearly 20 percent of the festival's estimated 7,000 revelers come from outside Scotland, Thomson says. (Inside tip: If it seems too capricious to go abroad for an arts festival, consider that, as of last Tuesday, you could snag a round-trip Icelandair flight from Boston to Glasgow for $246, excluding taxes.)
Still not convinced? Thomson has some parting words for what to expect at this year's Glasgay!: ''A cornucopia of artists of many different generations. A chance to see yourself or an ideal role model represented positively on stage or the big screen. A good night out in the fellowship of like-minded people. A safe environment that promotes a healthier lifestyle than the commercial gay scene of bars and clubs."
For a complete schedule of events, as well as suggested accommodations, visit www.glasgay.co.uk. Here's a sampling of entertainment highlights:
Bette Bourne (Nov. 2-13). Bourne is perhaps a stranger to most American audiences, but his theater performances (including a recent stint as quintessential queer raconteur Quentin Crisp) have attracted a loyal following in the United Kingdom. At Glasgay! he stars in the world premiere of a new Tim Fountain play, in which he's an older gentleman who has a partner of 25 years, but gets his first computer and befriends a youthful suitor on a gay website.
Stephen Duffy & the Sandy Taylor Trio in ''Most Gentlemen Don't Like Love" (Nov. 6). We could have sworn Duffy was the baby-faced lad who sang in the Irish boy band Boyzone and then came out as gay, but apparently we're wrong (that's Stephen Gately, you dolt). Nor is he the ejected musician from Duran Duran. Apparently, this Stephen is an accomplished jazz vocalist who has made a splash with his take on Cole Porter and George Gershwin classics.
Duckie (Nov. 7). You've got to love a London theater act billed as ''a club night for poofy gangsters and lezzy campsters!" There will be puppetry, stripteases, and enough high camp and high heels to rival an evening with the Edwards Twins in Arlington.
Bridge Markland (Nov. 9-10). Germany's androgynous (and equally striking) performance artist debuts her one-woman show ''Bridgeland Zwei," a whirlwind of Weimar cabaret songs and ''a cross-dressing body/face pantomime."
James Reed can be reached at email@example.com.