More serious articles covering current affairs, politics, LGBTQ issues and more.
I speak to Harriet Minter and Emma Sexton on Talk Radio’s Badass Women’s Hour about my most recent article, homophobia and the situation in Birmingham.
I speak to Harriet Minter and Emma Sexton on Talk Radio’s Badass Women’s Hour about my most recent article, homophobia and the situation in Birmingham.
We don’t get more than one chance at life. The more fortunate among us might get to enjoy eighty birthdays, eighty Christmases, eighty first days of spring, when the smell of the blossom and the gentle warmth of the sun mark the end of the cold, dark winter days and thrill us with the promise of the summer to come. And then, in the blink of an eye, it’s over. The world moves on, but we do not. It’s precious and fragile and fleeting.
Imagine, then, if you had to spend the early part of the brief time we have on this Earth feeling alone, afraid and ashamed. Imagine if the very essence of who you are had to be hidden away like a dirty little secret, because who you are is bad, wrong, sinful. Then imagine what it would say about you if your actions were responsible for inflicting this misery on another person, perhaps even your own child.
When I was five, I liked my friend. I’m gonna call him James, because that was his name. He was my best friend and, when we were at school, we did everything together. We sat together in class, we played together at break times, we ate together, giggling and swapping bits of our lunches.
We held hands.
I liked holding hands with James. It felt nice. I had neither the emotional maturity nor the linguistic dexterity to describe what I felt for him, but I knew I liked him a whole lot more than my other friends, and that I liked him in a different way.
There was a day in year two when we were on our way to assembly and I took James’ hand, just as I had always done. He pulled it away and held it behind his back. I looked at him, confused.
“We can’t hold hands anymore,” he said. “It’s gay.”
I remember this exchange like it was yesterday. I didn’t know what ‘gay’ meant, I’d never even heard the word before, but the look on his face told me everything I needed to know: Being ‘gay’ was a Very Bad Thing indeed.
James and I were still friends after that, but it was never the same. For me, anyway. I still feel that loss today, not because relationships are particularly serious or enduring at ages 5 and 6, but because I didn’t only lose James that day, I lost a part of myself. It was the first day I knew that there was something wrong with me, something shameful that I had to hide.
My secondary school was a dark place. Literally and figuratively. Eight or nine dismal blocks of grey concrete full of Section 28-fuelled homophobia and low-level violence. I was routinely hit, kicked and punched, and I spent most of my days there with the words ‘poof’, ‘queer’ and ‘faggot’ ringing in my ears. I wasn’t out, but that didn’t stop them. They had the weight of the media, the government and their homophobic parents behind them. Fighting the good fight, bashing the queers.
It’s little wonder, then, that by the time I left school, I was so far in the closet that there was the very real possibility I would never make it out. I think at one point I almost managed to convince myself I was straight. I just needed to ignore all the bad feelings, push them right down, and everything would be fine, right?
Needless to say, it wasn’t fine.
I wasn’t a bad person when I was closeted. I wasn’t violent or abusive. I wasn’t one of those who used homophobia as a defence mechanism, and, whilst I didn’t always get it right, I tried to do right by people. Helped old ladies across the road, that sort of thing. I was still me to a point, but I felt like a faded facsimile of who I was supposed to be.
And I’m the first to admit that, because of this, I wasn’t always particularly pleasant to be around. I was often frustrated and short-tempered, converting every negative emotion to anger rather than admitting to myself what was really causing that sad, empty feeling inside me.
I did make it out of the closet eventually, as you know, but by that point, I was quite irreparably damaged. After the initial euphoria of coming out had subsided, I became profoundly depressed and anxious, mourning those lost years I knew I could never recapture, plagued with what ifs that would remain forever unanswered, and wondering whether I would ever feel truly at peace.
I was fortunate in that my wife and son were extremely supportive, more supportive than I had any right to expect, and that is a thing for which I’ll always be immensely grateful. My extended family were rather less supportive, but you can’t have everything, I guess.
Anyway, with their love and understanding, some therapy, a bucketload of tears and many months of difficulty, I found my way back. I still have bad days, bad weeks, sometimes, but I have ways of coping with the fallout now that I didn’t have before. I’m happy now, overall, but I don’t know if I’ll ever be totally ok. Three decades of that level of damage is gonna take some rolling back.
So when I look at what’s happening in Birmingham and Manchester, and no doubt other cities across the UK by now, I feel angry. Angry that we’re having to refight battles we’ve already fought, and which belong firmly in the past; angry that narrow-minded people seek to use the protective veil of religious belief to excuse their hateful bigotry and intolerance; and utterly fucking enraged that another generation of children might have to endure what I and so many others like me had to endure some thirty years ago.
Of all the two thousand or so gods man has invented during the ten thousand years of recorded history, I don’t believe in any of them. The idea of a supreme being just doesn’t seem plausible to me. What I do believe is that, if a supreme being were to exist, she wouldn’t be petty, malicious or vindictive enough to describe one human being loving another as a ‘sin’ or an ‘abomination’. Moreover, I don’t believe she would make beings who are attracted to other beings of the same sex, then punish them for acting on that attraction. Because that would be a fucking dick move.
In 2019, more and more Christians, Muslims, Hindus and Jews are coming around to this way of thinking. Their belief in their chosen scripture, and their interpretation of it, has evolved over time, as is only right and fitting. So just as it’s no longer necessary for proponents of a particular faith to offer rape victims the choice between marrying their attacker or being stoned to death, it’s equally unnecessary for them to behave like a hateful dickhole to LGBT people in order to appease their favourite deity. Being gay isn’t a choice, but using a centuries-old book to justify your intolerance most definitely is.
If your adherence to a particular faith requires you to oppress those who are different to you, you either need to choose a less abhorrent ideology, or consider whether your interpretation of that ideology might be the problem. Your faith doesn’t trump the rights of others to be safe, accepted and supported.
There is a great deal of debate surrounding how many of us are L, G, B or T. Some studies place the figure at around 5% overall, with younger generations showing figures as high as 8 or 9%. And that’s without including those who are still closeted, so the true figure could easily be in excess of 10%.
But even if we take the lower estimate, if you’re standing outside a school of two hundred pupils shouting anti-LGBT hate into a microphone from the back of a flatbed truck, at least ten of the children present will be left feeling hurt, frightened and alone as a direct result of your actions.
If you are successful in your poisonous, spiteful aim of removing any and all LGBT-related education from the curriculum, those children will grow up thinking that who and what they are is fundamentally wrong. It might even be your own child upon whom you inflict this most grievous and unforgivable harm.
They will remember that day. It will stay with them forever. And just as I am able to sit here as a very nearly forty year old man and shed a tear for the innocent little boy whose life changed forever in a single minute one day in 1985, your own child may very well have to look back and relive the instant that broke them thirty-odd years from now. Will you really be able to live with yourself if the face staring back at them is yours?
I wrote this piece for my son about a year ago when I was coming to terms with some stuff, and I think it feels right to share it today in the hope that it will matter to someone else.
I’ve been thinking for a few weeks about writing something just for you, and it’s taken me this long to marshal my thoughts into anything approaching coherence. There’s much I want to say – to you, about you, about me, the world and your place within it. I hope this piece will mean something to you, and that you’ll look back over it one day and remember fondly all the great times we’ve shared, and the many more we have yet to share.
It’s fair to say I was a pretty reluctant father. You know this, we’ve spoken about it before. I guess I always took the pragmatic view: we’re overpopulated as it is, and another child is just another drain on the world’s resources. Nice, huh?
I always say it was your mother’s nagging that made me agree to start a family, but that’s a little disingenuous. And somewhat unfair, as it happens. What’s actually the case is that she needed to have a baby. She needed to be a mother like a fish needs water, and it would have been a travesty to deny her that. So I actually agreed to start a family because I love Mummy so much, which I guess is the best reason of all.
I still remember the night you were born and, until recently, I never really reflected on it to any great extent. Thankfully, I tend to think about things rather more emotionally now than I once did, and I’ve finally learned to appreciate the significance of that night – of being the first person to hold you after you came into the world. It makes me happy to think of that now in a way I perhaps wasn’t capable of before.
That said, I was never particularly enamoured with the whole baby palaver. I loved you fiercely of course, but, as I’m sure you’re aware, babies don’t really do very much. You put food in one end, shit comes out of the other, and sometimes they cry. The first 18 months are pretty much a case of biding your time until it starts to get interesting. Thankfully, it got really interesting.
I loved the toddler bit. So much. The little outfits; the clumsy, unsteady gait; your little hand thrust comfortingly in mine; the amusing mispronunciations; the adoring looks from the little old ladies you would delight with your endearing turn of phrase; I loved it all. I mourned it for a long time after it was over. I didn’t love you any less, but I felt a sense of loss that those days were gone, never to return. That might seem silly to you, and I suppose maybe in some ways it is, but I suspect you’ll understand one day. I’m also sure a time will come in the not too distant future when ‘Daddy’ will give way to ‘Dad’, and maybe I’ll grieve a little then, too.
The way you have matured over the past year or so, however, has given me cause to let go of any residual sadness about the passing of those days. I look at you now and feel an overwhelming sense of pride at the child you’ve grown into, and deep-rooted feelings of excitement and optimism about the man you will become.
You already have a social conscience and a sense of justice far in advance of most people your age. You refuse to tolerate intolerance, and that’s one of the best qualities a person can have. Never let that go – where you see hate, injustice and victimisation, call it out. It’s easy to hear something offensive and turn a deaf ear, but the world needs people like you to challenge hate in all its forms. As you get older, the world will try to knock your compassion out of you. Don’t let it, because it’s the very essence of who you are.
We’re not here for very long. When you’re ten, it feels like you have forever, but time has a way of running through your fingers like sand. I don’t expect you to grasp that now, but maybe if the grown up you is reading back over this in 30 years’ time, he’ll allow himself a wry smile. The truth is though, that we’re here for a mere fraction of the blink of an eye, so we have to make it count.
That doesn’t mean you have to change the whole world, however. There can only be so many people whose names go down in history as having achieved something magnificent, and even their great accomplishments will ultimately count for nothing. This civilisation will end as all the others have before it, our species will inevitably become extinct (pretty soon if we don’t buck our ideas up), and the universe won’t give even the tiniest of fucks.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that life is futile and there’s no point in even trying to achieve anything, it’s just that, for most people, our accomplishments aren’t particularly important or abiding. At least not on a global scale. But even if you don’t find a cure for cancer, discover life on other planets, or solve the energy crisis that threatens to bring about our untimely demise, you can still leave the world a better place than when you found it.
Every single day, you touch the lives of others. Think of all the people you have encountered over the course of your ten years so far. Or even just one year. Friends, family, acquaintances, strangers who you speak to once in passing: you will have an effect on each and every one of those people. It might be tiny, almost imperceptible, but the sum of these interactions can help to change the world for the better. The more people who extend the hand of kindness, friendship and tolerance to those around them, the more chance there is that one day this will be the norm.
So in the end, only two things really matter: that you are happy and that you are good to other people. It gives me great comfort to know that, at the time of writing, both of those things are true. I feel sure that the latter will always be true because you’ve inherited your mother’s kind, gentle nature; you radiate the same warmth, the same inner beauty.
As much as I want you to be happy, however, I want you to know it’s ok to feel sad sometimes. Or worried or anxious or scared or upset. Don’t ever hide from your emotions, they’re what make us human. Cry if you need to. Hug someone if you feel like it (and they’re ok with it). When you shut down some of your emotions, it’s extremely difficult not to shut them all down. The only one that makes it to the surface in those situations tends to be anger. Anger is natural too, sometimes, but it’s rare that anything good ever comes of it. Embrace your other feelings, let them in, get to know them. Don’t ever let anyone tell you to hide them away. So many of society’s problems could be solved by letting boys know it’s ok to cry, and by giving them a hug when they do so rather than telling them to toughen up.
I feel a profound sense of regret that it took me so long to realise this. Before I came out, I fell into precisely the trap I have described above. I didn’t just repress my sexuality, but so many of my other feelings as well. It had a lasting effect, and one that I’m still trying to come to terms with. I feel guilty that, for parts of your early life, I was prone to anger and irritability in a way that surpassed what was normal or healthy. I worry that you’ll remember my behaviour during these important formative years and judge me negatively. I want you to know that I’m sorry for all of it: the shouting, the snapping, the slamming of doors. I hope you can find it within yourself to forgive me.
I feel much better now, and I hope it shows. I do still feel sad sometimes. I cry sometimes, too. Quite a lot, actually. I think I must be making up for lost time. It’s ok though, because allowing myself to feel sad sometimes, means that I get to feel happy nearly all of the time. I don’t think that was the case before.
As well as apologising, I need to say thank you. When I came out almost a year ago, there were only two people in the whole world whose opinions I cared about. Whatever anyone else has said or done in the meantime, your reactions were always the only ones that really mattered. The grace, the maturity, the love and acceptance with which you handled my revelation is something I will always treasure. The manner in which you’ve taken an interest in LGBTQ issues since then, the way you actively support our community, is both beautiful and heart-warming. However you end up identifying in the future, the fact that you were so supportive of me and others like me before you were even able to describe your own sexuality will continue to be a source of great joy to me.
I want to finish by talking a little bit about Mummy. As you go through life, you’ll meet a lot of people. Some of them you’ll like, some not so much. A few of them you’ll love. And if you’re lucky, you’ll find the one person who is everything to you: your best friend; your counsellor; your drinking partner; the one you laugh with; the one you cry with; the one you can sit in silence with and still know exactly what they’re thinking; the first person you think of every morning and the last one you think of every night. When you meet that person, you’ll recognise them, and they will recognise you. And when that recognition hits you, for fuck’s sake grab hold of each other and never let go. That kind of love doesn’t come along too often, and when it does, you owe it to yourself not to let it pass you by.
So many people ask me whether Mummy and I will split up because I’m gay, but I can honestly say that the thought has never entered my head. All too many people still see sexuality as a simple binary choice, but that’s bollocks. The love we share transcends my sexuality, and I feel sorry for the people who don’t get that. Your presence in our lives has served only to strengthen that bond, and as I watch you grow into a person who embodies everything that I adore about your mother, I feel incredibly fortunate to share my life with the two of you. It was always a wonderful feeling knowing that I had my best friend beside me as I faced whatever shit life had to throw at me, but it’s so much better knowing that I now have not one, but two best friends in my corner.
I guess that’s it for now. I hope it wasn’t too much to take in or too arduous to get through. Maybe I’ll do this again one day when I have more I need to say. Until then, remember that you have my undying love, respect and admiration. None of which means I won’t still tell you when you’re behaving like a little twat. 😘
With all my love,
Everything’s a bit fucking shit right now, isn’t it? On this side of the Atlantic, our government has decided it’s a better idea to buy every packet of plasters in Boots than it is to simply not cut our own fucking legs off, and on the other side, the animated turd of someone who has eaten nothing but Cheesy Wotsits for a year is trying to destroy the entire fucking planet as though it was a thing as insignificant as a woman’s life. It’s nice, therefore – necessary, even – to stumble across something a bit more uplifting from time to time so we don’t all go completely shitting mad.
Imagine my relief, then, when the first thing I saw on Twitter this morning was a video of a gay teenager who has been invited to perform his drag act at Brighton Pride next week, after his school had decided it wasn’t ‘appropriate’ for their talent show. Now, obviously, it’s a bit depressing that the narrow-minded fuckers running his school have taken this stance in 2018, but it was gratifying to see him being offered the opportunity to perform on a much bigger stage as a result.
As I watched the video, I shed a few tears. Some were for myself, I won’t lie. I always find myself thinking ‘what if’ when I see something like this, and it always makes me feel a little sad. But a lot of those tears were happy ones that this 14-year-old boy had found the strength to be his most fabulous self, that he refused to hide in the shadows like so many have had to do before him, and that his mother was by his side lifting him up. I felt cheered by the fact that this courageous young man had managed to overcome the short-sightedness of those who are paid to inspire him, and that he would now be looking forward to enjoying what will no doubt be a defining, life-changing moment in a supportive and loving environment.
Then I looked at the replies.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right: it was a terribly fucking stupid thing to do. Sadly though, like a turd that’s halfway out, there was no taking it back. The best you can do in such circumstances is to nip it off, and by that stage, it’s probably a futile gesture.
So I read them all.
As you might already have guessed, my positive mood was very suddenly, very abruptly, soured, like a previously convivial party to which Michael Gove has just arrived. I feel pretty confident in saying that those of you who know me will probably agree that I’m not a totally stupid man, and of course I wasn’t naive enough to expect that all the comments would be supportive. There’ll always be a few arseholes, right?
Well, on this occasion, it was like a room in which the floor was carpeted entirely in arseholes, there were numerous, quite unpleasant arseholes covering the walls and every piece of furniture was constructed using only dried out, hardened arseholes, which were no less shitty for all their desiccation.
“The parents want locking up. It’s child abuse.”
“Get up them fucking stairs and don’t come down until you’re normal.”
“Where’s his dad? Probably hanging in the garage after watching that.”
“I’m sure the perverts at Brighton Pride will enjoy having a minor performing at their event.”
That’s just a small selection of the nasty, malicious rhetoric spewed forth by grown adults, who were so enraged by the fact that a young gay boy wanted to sing and dance while wearing a dress that they simply had to take to Twitter to shit out their most pointedly vitriolic abuse. Just imagine the mindset for a second. You have attained the age of legal majority, you have a job, a car, maybe a mortgage, perhaps a wife and children of your own, and yet you choose to spend your Sunday mornings telling a 14-year-old boy, whose only crime is wearing clothes of which you don’t approve, that who he is makes his dad want to kill himself. What sort of desperately fucking worthless piece of shit would do something like that?
This is a drum I bang pretty frequently, so bear with me if you’ve heard it before, but I’m sick to my fucking back teeth of seeing and hearing comments that go something like this:
“Why are you always going on about LGBT equality? We’re fed up of hearing about it. You can get married now, so in what way are you not equal?”
In this way, you unremittingly fucking hateful bastards.
In the way that a gay schoolboy can’t take part in a branch of the performing arts that gay guys have occupied for decades without being told he’s a freak. In the way that a mother supporting her son to be open about who he is is labelled a child abuser and told she should be in prison. In the way that some vicious, cowardly fucking cunt with an obscured avatar thinks it’s acceptable to imply that a father would feel compelled to hang himself rather than see his son feeling happy and fulfilled as a flamboyant, proud gay. And in the way that gay men are labelled paedophiles again and again, day after day, with no regard for the damage it might cause to the young people who are struggling to come to terms with their own sexuality.
All the time unedifying shit like this unfolds in response to a perfectly innocent video highlighting a positive aspect of gay culture, we’re not equal. All the time we have to think twice about whether it’s safe to hold hands in public, we’re not equal. All the time we’re yelled at, or spat at, or beaten up because we happen to be attracted to other guys or other girls, we’re not fucking equal.
But one day we will be. And it’s because of boys like Lewis Bailey and all the other Lewis Baileys who have gone before him and all the other Lewis Baileys who have yet to come. Those brave souls who refuse to be cowed by tragic, impotent little trolls whose existence offers nothing to the world but prejudice and hatred. Those who have the courage to say, “This is me. Either love me as I am or stay the fuck out of my life.” Those who stand up to the haters no matter what, and in doing so, give others the strength to do likewise.
These people are truly the best of us, and it is they who will change the world for the better. And if you’re not on board with that, you can fuck off to the edge of the observable universe and spend the rest of your miserable fucking existence eating a never-ending banquet of dicks.
Not the nice ones, though. We’re keeping those for ourselves.
As Pride Month rolls around, it is my wont to write something a little more serious and considered than the usual ranting, expletive-laden frivolity you’re likely to encounter on my Twitter account. I appreciate I’ve left it a little late this year, but I reckon not dealing with things until you absolutely have to is 2018’s jam, so I should still be ok.
I’m not even sure what this piece will be about, I just felt as though I should write…something. I think, though, I’d like to talk about myself for a while. I know that’s probably going to elicit a few groans, but fuck it: I’m in charge here, not you.
For those of you who don’t know, my situation is a little unusual. It started off fairly typically, I guess: closeted guy gets married, has a family, finally comes out…you know how that one ends. Except it didn’t end that way for me. My wife and I are still together, and not just to keep up appearances or because we have a child, but because we actually want to be together.
In many ways, this is the best outcome I could have hoped for. With the odd (quite understandable) wobble aside, she has been unflinchingly understanding and supportive, and, whilst our relationship has unarguably altered substantially over the past two years, that change has been, to an overwhelming degree, positive. So I had the benefit of being able to be honest about who I am, with none of the upheaval of a messy divorce and all the associated unpleasantness. Great.
But that’s not quite the whole story.
You see, I’ve always struggled with my identity, and that struggle continues to this day. I spent 37 years feeling like I didn’t fit, like I didn’t really belong anywhere. Then I came out, and, for obvious reasons, immediately began to identify as bisexual. That was great at first, but after the initial euphoria of being out had started to abate, I realised that I didn’t really feel bisexual. With the exception of the one with whom I’d spent the past decade and a half of my life, I wasn’t really attracted to women at all.
So I started to identify as gay. This felt better to me – more honest at least – but it brought with it its own problems. Primary amongst these is the fact that I’ve never really felt accepted by other gay men. I feel like they view me as an outsider, an imposter. Indeed, some have explicitly stated as much to my face. As a result, I started to feel that way about myself, not least of all because, when you look at it objectively, their argument has some merit. So I’d gone from not really fitting in as a straight guy to not really fitting in as a gay guy. I felt like I’d been cast adrift, back into that ocean of not belonging.
Then there are the questions. Oh, Jesus, the fucking questions:
“Why are you still married?”
“You’re not really gay then, are you?”
“Do you still have sex?”
“How does THAT work?”
Quite aside from the fact that these things are no one’s fucking business but my own, I wonder how many people would presume to ask a straight person they hardly know (or even one they know quite well) why they bother to stay married, or indeed whether they still have sex with their spouse.
These questions began to take their toll because, whilst I’m very open about who I am online, I still wasn’t totally comfortable in real life situations being a queer guy who’s married to a woman. So I found myself reverting to the old habit of ‘passing’ as straight to avoid the funny looks or the probing questions. And I fucking hated it. I’d spent most of my life pretending to be someone I wasn’t, and it felt like I was still hiding even after risking everything by coming out.
I’ve attempted to explain my situation a thousand different ways to a thousand different people, but I’m not sure any of them really get it. All I know is that I’ve been through an awful lot of shit over the course of my adult life – some soaring highs and some desperate, crashing lows – and the one person I’ve always known I can rely on to be there, without question, without equivocation, is my wife.
We laugh a lot. Sometimes we cry. We take the piss out of each other mercilessly. We argue, but not very often. We mourn our departed pets like they’re members of our family because that’s exactly what they are. We celebrate each other’s victories as though they were our own, and commiserate on each other’s failures to an equal degree. We lift each other up during times of hardship, and appreciate the good times all the more for it. We drink wine and go for walks, though not usually at the same time. We share common values and work together to instill them in our son, who we’re certain will one day turn out to be a fine young man. So whereas we might not have ended up together had I had the courage to be honest about who I was when I was 20, I feel like it’s an awful lot to throw away now I’m pushing 40.
I realise I’m rambling now, but I wanted to provide a little context to the statement that this last year has been what you might describe as a little bit really fucking awful for me. On top of the stuff I’ve already mentioned, my son was hospitalised in quite a dramatic and somewhat traumatic fashion in February/March, and I also endured the most stressful house purchase/move it’s possible to imagine shortly after that. There have been times over the past 12 months when it’s fair to say I’ve been in a bit of a state.
I’ve suffered some pretty horrible bouts of depression going back several years, and I waited far too long to seek treatment. When I did eventually decide to get help, I had to battle with the gatekeepers of my local NHS trust’s mental health services in order to be allowed access to even a short course of counselling. I know I’ve said it many times before, and I will no doubt say it again a million times in the future, but fuck every single member of this uniquely fucking evil government.
Anyway, after I had finally secured the treatment I needed, I started having some therapy earlier this year. I don’t feel as though I got the best out of the sessions as my anxiety was off the fucking chart with the house stuff, but it definitely helped. I don’t even think my therapist was particularly amazing at dealing with my particular issues, but just being able to talk to someone impartial was a huge positive for me.
If nothing else, I think the sessions helped me to change the way I think about certain problems. I still struggle with my identity, but I’ve learned not to dwell on it too much. One day I suspect such labels as ‘gay’ and ‘bi’ will be redundant and people will just be attracted to whoever they’re attracted to without worrying about which particular box they fit into. Maybe I was just born a few hundred years too early.
I’ve also learned to be less bothered by the inappropriate questions because, ultimately, they’re not a thing I can control. All I can do is be the best version of myself it’s possible to be, to be open and honest about who I am, and to invite those who don’t like it to go eat a big fucking bucketful of Trump dicks. I am what I am, and all that.
Which brings me neatly back onto Pride Month. This year, as with every other, there have been the usual cries of, “Why do you still need Pride?” from people who really shouldn’t be allowed to operate anything more dangerous than a fucking duvet without professional supervision. There are a whole range of very general answers to this eminently fucking ridiculous question, but I hope this article provides a more specific, personal example. I still need Pride, and I suspect I always will because it’s never gonna be easy being who I am. It is getting easier, though.
I guess sometimes, if you’re really lucky, life works out exactly as you had planned and everything just falls perfectly into place. More often than not, however, we have to play an imperfect hand and try not to lose the farm. Well it’s been a monumental fucking struggle, but I still have my farm and the soil is reasonably fertile and there are even some pigs and chickens wandering around somewhere. It’s doing ok.
We fucked it, lads. All of it. The entire thing.
Ever since our distant ancestors stopped flinging their own shit at each other, stood upright and took their first, tentative steps into the realm of self-awareness, we’ve been in charge of more or less everything. But, stop now: pause for a moment and look around. Depressing as it may be, I’m pretty sure that even the most ridiculously optimistic among us would probably now admit that very little of anything remains unfucked.
The climate’s changing, the oceans are acidifying, species are dying out on an industrial scale; a flabby, semi-literate, incoherent, megalomaniacal tosspot with piss-coloured hair and the temperament of an intoxicated toddler is in charge of one of the world’s largest nuclear arsenals; Nazis walk among us, and you’re apparently not even supposed to punch the hateful cunts; the planet has been in a state of more or less perpetual war for the entire duration of recorded history; and, to top it all off, we seek to excuse the nastiness, stupidity and racism of one of our most senior British politicians by saying, ‘Oh, that’s just Boris’. It’s all quite irrevocably fucked, and we were the fuckers doing the fucking.
We set ourselves up as leaders, decision-makers. So concerned were we that women might try to have a say in how things were being run, that we actually invented entire religions designed (amongst other things) to keep women down. Women were a spare rib, an afterthought.
“Need something to stick your cock in when you get bored, Adam? Here, have this.”
They were the reason for our fall from grace, the ones to blame for their own misfortunes and ours, and they were certainly not to be trusted.
Fast forward a few centuries, and little has changed. Sure, women in western society, at least, have been granted something we men like to call ‘equality’, but in reality, it’s little more than a veneer. An illusion. We grant them the minimum amount of ‘equality’ we think we can get away with, as though it’s a thing we own and that we get to dole out as we see fit. We drip feed rights that ought to be inalienable, then have the temerity to expect gratitude in return.
Women can run for office now, but most parliaments and legislative chambers are still predominantly, often overwhelmingly, male. The US has never had a female president, and when it looked like there was a chance of one being elected, the old boys’ network came together to ensure that misogyny won out. And whilst we have had two female Prime Ministers in this country, neither of the two largest ‘progressive’ parties in the UK has ever had a female leader.
Similarly, it’s illegal to discriminate based on gender in matters of employment, and yet, there is still a huge problem with women being paid less for doing exactly the same job as their male counterparts. Even our publicly-funded broadcaster was recently found to be guilty of such unequal treatment.
“Ah, but,” the half-brained twat cries, “if women take time off to have children, they can’t expect to have the same pay and benefits when they return to work as a man who hasn’t had a break.”
Putting aside the obvious point that not all women do take time off to have children, this is a line of argument that neatly encapsulates the problem:
“Hey, women, we can’t have children, so you’ll have to do it for us. You’ll have to pause your careers to bring the next generation of doctors, nurses, teachers and scientists into the world. Then you’ll have to clean up their shit, amuse them, nourish them and care for them until it’s time for you to re-enter the workplace. When that time comes, we’re going to give you worse pay and conditions than men who are doing the same job as a punishment for your dereliction of duty, even though we were unable/unwilling to do this vital job ourselves.”
And while we’re on the subject of equality related to reproductive rights, the whole abortion debate is another area dominated by men when they don’t have any fucking right whatsoever to a say. Once again, we use religion to justify our staggeringly unpleasant treatment of women:
“You can’t get mad at us, God wants us to behave like arseholes.”
If men had to carry children and give birth, not only would the gender pay gap not exist, but we’d be as over-stocked with abortion clinics as we are with tired excuses for our unreasonable behaviour.
“Can you fit me in for a quick abortion this afternoon, Jeff?”
“Sorry, mate. I’m booked solid ‘til six.”
“That is indeed inconvenient.”
“Try three doors down, Dave. There’s another abortion clinic there. Failing that, there are three branches of ‘Abortions R Us’ in the next street.”
And then there’s the sex thing. I suppose there was no way I could hope to get through writing an article like this without discussing the ongoing sexual abuse scandal, much as you might consider it better if I did. Now, I know what you’re thinking:
“Ooh, good. That’s just what the internet needs: yet another man’s take on the sexual abuse and harassment of women.”
With that in mind, I’ll keep it as brief as I can, but suffice to say, I have been nothing short of ashamed of my gender over the past few weeks. It’s not just that we’ve been exposed as having abused our power to perpetrate some fairly hideous crimes against women, but also that our reactions to the revelations have, in far too many cases, been so utterly fucking horrific.
There have been the cries of ‘witch hunt’, the lamentations that ‘we can’t even flirt anymore’ and, most sickeningly of all, those seeking to lay responsibility for the death of Carl Sargeant earlier this week at the door of women who have reported sexual crimes perpetrated against them.
I won’t dignify any of these arguments with an individual response, but I will say this:
If a culture of hyper-vigilance surrounding the sexual exploitation of women adversely affects you in any way, you might want to consider being less of a creepy, sexually-aggressive, breathtakingly contemptible fucking jizzstain.
All of which ties back to my earlier point. We’ve had absolute power forever, and we’ve used it to lay waste to everything we ought to hold dear. It’s not even like we just stood passively by and watched as things gradually turned to shit. No, that wasn’t enough for us. Instead, we decided to mould a gigantic passenger jet out of shit, and crash it gratuitously into the stuff we were supposed to be looking after.
So maybe it’s time for the women to have a go. But, y’know, a proper go this time, unlike all the other times when we’ve just patted them on the arse and said,
“Sure thing, sweet cheeks, you can be equal. Right after you’ve made me a sandwich.”
The time has come for us to relinquish our grip on power. Uncomfortable as some of you may find it, we’re shit at being in charge. And let’s face it, there is literally no way that women being in control of the world could make things any more unrelentingly fucking awful than they currently are.
It’s time for true equality, and we all have a part to play. If women are shouting about something, ask yourself why they need to shout. Then shut the fuck up and listen to what they’re saying. Don’t stand by while casual misogyny goes unchallenged – even stuff that might seem harmless on the surface helps to create a culture in which it’s the norm for women to be treated as second class citizens, as objects for our amusement and sexual gratification.
Even if you’re not one of those men who actively seeks to discriminate against women, we’ve all gained an advantage at some point from a system that favours us in more or less every way. At least, on the face of it we’ve gained an advantage. In reality, we’ve gained nothing, for we are still part of a society that treats half of its members as being beneath the other half. I firmly believe that, when that changes, we all stand to benefit in innumerable, immeasurable ways.
I have a confession to make: I’m a pedant. I am the sort of person who will react like a steak-deprived Jeremy Clarkson at the sight of an erroneous your/you’re, and who will beat his fist on the desk like a millionaire Tory MP who’s just been told about a proposed £3 per month increase in the rate of disability benefits at the use of the word ‘I’ when it should rightly be ‘me’. For many of you, this will hardly come as a surprise, but it did give me cause to stop and think about my reaction over the past few days to the persistent use of the term ‘Gay Pride’ by a range of news outlets and social media users.
The BBC News channel’s coverage of Belfast Pride on Saturday repeatedly referred to the event as ‘Gay Pride’ (though they also referred to homophobic fuckweasels as ‘religious conservatives’, so accuracy obviously isn’t high on their agenda); that bastion of left wing inclusivity The Guardian told us yesterday that the National Trust had reversed its decision to require volunteers to wear ‘gay pride badges’ (because even those volunteering for charities should be free to behave like arseholes, presumably); and The Star proudly reported how Michaella McCollum (no, me neither) was pictured ‘flashing her nips at Gay Pride in Brighton’, which is presumably the sort of hard-hitting journalism the author, Nicholas Bieber, feels justifiably proud of having produced. The monumental titwank.
Perhaps most worryingly, though, a quick Google search for the term ‘Gay Pride’ brought up the following result:
I can’t even begin to explain that last one, but the organisers of a Pride event really ought to know better.
Every time I hear the words ‘Gay Pride’, my reaction is similar to that experienced when I witness ‘imply’ and ‘infer’ being used interchangeably: my brow furrows, my buttocks clench (often audibly) and I let out the exasperated sigh of a teenage boy whose parents simply won’t fuck off out so that he can have a wank. Given my self-confessed pedantry, therefore, it was only natural that I should start to wonder whether my objection to this phrase is just another manifestation of my somewhat anal commitment to linguistic accuracy.
The short answer is that it is not. Having given the matter a good degree of thought, I have reached the conclusion that my bristling is actually quite justified. Whereas the first Pride events were routinely referred to as ‘Gay Pride’, this hasn’t been the case now for many years, and rightly so. Our lesbian, bisexual, trans and other queer friends have been with us from the start, playing an instrumental role in the Stonewall riots of 1969, and in organising the very first Pride event the following year.
For the most part, LGB rights have improved immeasurably since the late 1960s, but it’s sad to say that the rights of trans, intersex and non-binary people haven’t kept pace. Whilst LGBT+ people still experience disproportionately high rates mental illness across the board, by far the worst affected are trans people, around 40% of whom will attempt suicide at some point in their lives. And far from looking upon this as a reason for attitudes to change, many a loathsome shit will actually use the intolerably high rates of attempted suicide as a stick with which to beat trans people:
“Trans people aren’t ‘stuck in the wrong body’, they’re just mentally ill – look at their suicide rates!”
What these subhuman sacks of festering excrement fail to realise (or do realise but are simply too fucking vile to care), is that trans people aren’t taking their own lives because they’re who they are, but because of the nasty, small-minded shite fountains who abuse, belittle and attack them for who they are. Their families disown them, their friends ridicule them and a rabid, unchecked right wing media portrays them as something to fear and deride. High-profile commentators, like the arse-faced, steaming bucket of pig jizz that is Piers Morgan, routinely use their platforms to make bigoted statements about trans people with little or no backlash. And whilst it would be nice to lay all the blame at the door of oily, shitty little cunts like Morgan, it’s disappointing to report that it’s not possible to do so. As I touched on in my previous article for Pride Month, casual (and not so casual) transphobia is still rife in the LGB community. All too often, I hear words like ‘tranny’ and ‘she-male’ being thrown around by assorted cis-gay fucktrumpets who, quite understandably, don’t particularly like it when they’re referred to as ‘poofs’ or ‘faggots’. It really has to stop.
Another problem we face as a community is our tendency to dismiss bisexual people as ‘confused’ or ‘undecided’, with a troublingly large minority of gays and lesbians being willing to declare that ‘bisexuality doesn’t really exist’. I have to say, I bear a good degree of residual guilt for the prevalence of such views because, although it’s certainly not an idea I subscribe to in any way, I did feed into this narrative by identifying as bisexual when I first came out. I think my reasons for that were fairly easy to justify (it wasn’t a conscious decision – I actually was a little confused), but it doesn’t stop me feeling like a gigantic twat, all the same. That said, it’s important to note that, whilst there are confused people who identify as bisexual, not all bisexuals are confused. And neither are they an inconsequential part of our community that we can simply forget about when it suits us.
Like it or not, we are in this together. From the lesbian who incited the unrest after being hit on the head by a police officer outside the Stonewall bar, to the trans women who risked everything to throw rocks at law enforcement officials and the bisexual people who fought alongside them; our pasts, and our futures, are inextricably linked. It seems a little like some in the gay community are happy to reap the benefits of the support we received from lesbian, bisexual, trans and queer activists then, and in the many years since Stonewall, without feeling the need to return the favour when it’s most needed.
So I urge you, fellow gays, to drop the term ‘Gay Pride’ from your vocabulary. It erases those members of our community who have stood up alongside us for so many years and betrays exactly the same level of privileged bollocks that so many straight people unthinkingly shit out on a daily basis (straight pride, anyone?). Moreover, if you see others referring to Pride as ‘Gay Pride’, correct them. Whether it’s a 300-follower user of Twitter, your Daily Mail-reading aunt on Facebook, or an international media outlet, it’s an exercise worth undertaking. None of us are free until all of us are free, and it’s up to us to ensure that every single part of our community is represented. It’s patently obvious that we can’t trust the media to regulate itself in this regard, so we have to accept responsibility for saying to them that it’s not ok to erase the LBTQ people upon whose shoulders we are so fortunate to stand.