Tel Aviv “Oriental” gay club Arisa burst on to the world’s consciousness this year thanks to a stream of amusing youtube videos starring the party’s two charismatic leading men, Eliad Cohen and Uriel Yekutiel. Together, the two friends blazed a brave and very timely new trail for gay men everywhere. Eliad was over the top muscle-bound butch and Uriel looked oddly like Freddie Mercury in drag and together they were fabulous – butch, funny, sexy, stylish, playful and political – masculine, feminine, Israeli, Arab and red-hot.
They exemplified a trend worldwide for “androgynous masculinity”. Rather than dowdy old drag queens in blond wigs lip syncing to Doris Day these men flashed stylish and fashion-forward feminine selves as well as overtly masculine personas and danced to dirty electro. They wore beards with their miniskirts – and looked great doing it. While Francois Sagat arguably kickstarted the trend, with his buff bod and unashamed penchant for artful camp, Azis represented this year in Bulgaria, Gene Kasidit swirled through Bangkok and New York’s Andre appeared on the cover of Vogue, no-one seemed to be having as much fun with the movement as the Israeli twosome.
They took their party on tour across Europe and to Brazil, and Yekutiel appeared in a series of videos for Israeli band the Young Professionals.
And along the way they reminded the world of the original spirit of the gay rights movement – not equality to be the same, but liberation – and the right to be different.