Thursday, 12 December 2013

Only a ginger can call another ginger ginger

Words have power. Oh they do. I read it somewhere. Well, certainly in between reading a lot of other waffle and, frankly, utter fartwittery, over the past week or two.

You may have noticed that a) a prominent sports star revealed they were attracted to boys. No, not Jessica Ennis. Tom. Woo Yay. Saw the vid and was pleased for him and thought “that took guts mate, and not just the kind of guts that sees you jump 10 metres up, backwards, spinning through the air – that’s pish easy by comparison – so good for you.”

Around that time I also set my stopwatch and started thinking about laying profitable bets on the backlash because, let’s face it, you know me – I’m not local. I don’t have a lot of faith in the six-fingered Plymouth posse and guessed that the 17th century mind-set of most of the city-that-civilisation-forgot was going to get their crayons out and start stringing monosyllabic words together to inform the echo-chamber that they was right sick of them gays and fed up with having them gays rammed down their throats and why didn’t heterosexuals get a “march” like the homosexuals and, frankly, it’s vile because if all men turned to men there would be no more babies, so it’s un-natural and against God and he will burn in the fiery pits of Hell, or Hull, whichever has the better culture these days.

Alongside them I was betting I would be educated by literally web-fingered know-it-all pseudo-citizen journalists who were going to remind me that this wasn’t real news and why was we, as a little Plymouth newspaper, hounding the Plymouth boy by writing about his YouTube revelation which was being retweeted by his million-strong followers, shown on national and international TV, radio, newspapers and sent via the science of telecommunications into outer space.  

And then I bet on the chances that both of these groups would write in, some actually using paper but most just sending in their missives via the wonder of the email and internet, which fortunately for them, allows people to write any old tadgers under the cover of complete anonymity. Yes, I bet they would write in accusing the paper of a) being disgusting for printing Tom’s words, b) being disgusting for printing letters from people who were disgusted at us printing Tom’s words, c) disgusted at the disgusting supportive letters who were disgusted at the disgusting letter writer who was disgusted at the paper for printing Tom’s disgusting words d) eventually it gets so meta, you find you just see a big ball-bag of everyone being “disgusted from Tunbridge Wells” and realise that you’re not remotely bothered anymore.

One of our more erudite and charming letter writers...
Except that I am. It was inferred that I and my workmates were either cheerleaders for bigotry or, worse, the bigots. Particularly from people who should know better. From people who for a number of years refused to speak to me about promoting LGBT issues in this city because, hey, I was a reporter on the local paper and thus couldn’t be trusted not to have the mind-set of Alf Garnett. When I pointed out that I wasn’t from “round here” and thus enjoyed the renaissance, the echoes of the 60s, the decent political correctness of the 80s and a more cosmopolitan outlook on the world, having worked for about a decade in London and living just down the road from it for more than three decades, but it fell on deaf ears. It must’ve been the Alf Garnett accent.

I mean, I know it’s cruel and harsh and very unfair of me to suggest it, but, well… you are a bit backward down here, aren’t you? It’s not entirely your fault, I know. You’re a little island, surrounded by grass and water, moors and channel. The next city of comparable size heading west is probably New York and it’s 50 miles east to the middle-class accents in Exeter. It probably wasn’t until 1976 that you saw your first hippy. You probably ate him. As for the 1980s, I’m sure you were convinced Boy George was a girl until he chained that bloke to a radiator. And you probably liked Clause 28 which banned the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality in schools as a “normal family relationship”. Because saying it’s okay for people to be gay, or lesbian, or whatever, is clearly more evil than the evilist thing we can imagine. You do wonder though why all that energy went into drawing up that bit of legislation when, perhaps, oh, I don’t know, people in the late 1980s should have thought more about whether it was appropriate to invite a DJ with a penchant for molesting children to Chequers on a regular basis.  

My mum brokered reality for me when I heard her say to my dad, who had made some disparaging remark about “poofs” a short while after laughing along with John Inman and Larry Grayson – so this’d be late 70s. Her surprisingly forcefully delivered line, considering it could easily warrant a slap or punch later the same night, was “Who cares if a man loves another man? There’s not enough love in this world and if two men love each other, then it’s more love in the world and that’s a good thing. I’d rather have two men loving each other than them going out and beating up some old woman…” You can’t argue with that, can you? So I didn’t.

"Well, it's better than them going out and beating up some old woman..." said Mum

When my best friend came out to me in our late teens I wasn’t exactly surprised. I was surprised at how well I handled it. Then I wasn’t surprised at how my initially mature response fell by the wayside and for a while I really couldn’t handle it. And a few years later, I found I could. So I asked his forgiveness for being an utter, immature, pratt. To his credit, he did and it was nice to finally rejoin the grown-up world again.

He was, and is, gay. And it’s a word I learned meant “I love him”. It did also mean “him, over there… he’s fit. You Carl, are a minger so don’t flatter yourself that I’d ever be remotely interested in your straight but flabby, unattractive backside.” Saying that – it (the aforementioned backside of mine) did get pinched a bit while it was sashaying through a Priscilla-type bar in Sydney, Australia in teh mid 1990s, so, it can’t be that unattractive.

Well, someone here didn't find me unattractive, so there... 
I liked the Political Correctness of the 1980s because it recognised that words had power. They could be used to create solidarity, and to divide. They could be reclaimed, fought over, reinterpreted. We searched for mutually acceptable words to describe each other so that we didn’t cause harm or hurt. Some will say it went too far, but the aim was good – it was to create a more inclusive, equal and fair world. Women could be bosses – they could be “chairwomen”. By giving them a name for that role, they could be more readily accepted as being able to perform that role. Now, a woman can be chairman of a board. We no longer think of it as a male role. It’s a person’s role. People weren’t “cripples”, they were disabled people. And Gay went from “happy” to “I love him”, which I guess, in a way, is still happy.

Sadly, this current generation doesn’t seem to agree. Gay now means rubbish, useless, wimpy, crap. Thanks to moron DJs like Chris Moyles, who repeatedly promoted thestreet slang word as a negative, it is bandied around playgrounds to disparage, bully, put down. Teenage boys who are learning that maybe they love “him” instead of “her” now face being considered rubbish, wimpy, crap. It’s a 21st century version of Witch-hunting. Find someone, point at them, call them gay. If they aren’t gay (useless), then the continued "you're rubbish" vilification will see them sink. If they really are “gay” (I love him) as well, then the vilification will see them float and then burn. So, we have teenage boys who are and are not gay, killing themselves, because bullies have made their lives hell by calling them gay.

And when I think of what my friend went through, how he tolerated my stupidity, and endured the Government’s stupidity, and the public’s stupidity, it makes me angry enough to give my eldest and middle son a right bollocking when I caught them saying something or someone was “gay” (to them, meaning rubbish/useless). I told them of the legends of music and acting and literature and science who were Gay, of my mum – their grandmother’s – brave solidarity with the concept of being Gay (whom you love) and of my oldest friend who forgave me my stupidity and is a really top bloke, though a bit grouchy at times if he hasn’t had his coffee.

So they don’t use the word in our house, and, I bloody hope, they’ve learned not to use it outside it either. Because if anything is rubbish, being Gay is not it. And I’m pretty happy with that. And I’d really, really like you all to be happy with that too.

I’ll leave you with this thought. Being Gay is like Being Ginger. They just are. Now get over it.


  1. I have a big smile on my dial. Some of that was real laugh-out-loud stuff, which isn't easy to make me do. However, I imagine the fartwittering

  2. , web-fingered, hippie-eating Plymouth Posse is building a wicker man to condemn you to the fiery pits of Hull, even as I type. I was a little disappointed that you became rather serious in the latter half, despite the fact that you had important points to make. I'd have liked a really good gigglesnort at the end. But yes. I really enjoyed it. Especially since you didn't mention my ginger hubby. And no - he's not ginger beer. He likes Ribena, whatever that signifies..

  3. (Apols for the split comment, but your Plymouth-based blog immediately detected that I do not have the requisite six fingers per hand and would not initially allow me to proceed, pass GO or collect two-hundred pounds)..

  4. But there wasn't even a 'backlash' now, was there? So where does that put self conceited "6 finger" gross stereotype.