Henning Bech Retires

Meeting Men: A Little Poetic for Henning


Do you know what it is as you pass to be loved by strangers?

Walt Whitman

This is a little poetic for Henning Bech on the occasion of his retirement, composed mainly of his own words.

I first met Henning Bech together with Jeffrey Weeks in the mid 1980s when he was visiting London. I recall walking the streets of Soho, chatting furiously about the ‘constructed homosexual’ and going to a gay pub for lunch. We soon became good friends, and a little while later, he came for a short while to The University of Essex as a Visiting Fellow. I recall him giving a very lively, if controversial, seminar, stirring the wrath of some of the feminists in the room with his remarks on sex in the city! In 1989, Henning organized a wonderfully stimulating conference in Copenhagen on Sexuality and Postmodernism. I was in very agreeable company – with Jeffrey, Carol Vance, Martha Vacinus and others. Henning, being a genial host, helped us to tour the city, visit the bars and engage in lively ’urban research’.   Much scholarship and much fun!  Later Henning contributed a key early and critical article on the Denmark Registered Partnerships for a book I was editing Modern Homosexualities; and later still he became a board member of the journal Sexualities, where he served for some 15 years.

Henning made an inspirational and outstanding contribution to both urban studies and queer scholarship, way ahead of his time.  In fact, his ideas are still striking. He is a unique intellectual who has made a core contribution. Nowadays, large numbers of scholars work in the field of urban sexualities: but not then. He was a true pioneer.  An academic life well lived.

                  So here is a little dream remembrance of those heady days ……

 Henning’s Dream

So what are the conditions and the possibilities of social life?

This homosexual way of being? This form of existence?

What is this species, with its moods and tunings and convictions?

What indeed are the conditions of its existence?

Modernity and its Gaze

At the bottom of the gaze

We find the City.

Get Out into the City!

Crowds of mutual strangers

Come together with others

Modernity and its Gaze

Get Out into the City!

The city is sexual and sexualized,

The sexuality of power and danger?

The pleasure of sexuality and violence?

Into this electric field the homosexual is born.

A pure male space?

Get Out into the City!

The city is the social world proper

Of the homosexual;

His life space.

Both everywhere and nowhere at all.

An absent homosexuality.

Present even though it isn’t.

The city is the social world proper

Of the homosexual.

So what indeed are the conditions of its existence?

The homosexual is a kind of time bomb,

Encoded with its own explosion.

Unthinkable without the simultaneous claim for his emancipation.

What indeed are the conditions of its existence?


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