Posted by: J M | October 4, 2010

G is for gay

I don’t often think about my sexuality these days. Having recently celebrated a decade of finally admitting to myself the fact that I preferred rice to chips, my homosexuality has now become more of a comfy old jumper or threadbare pair of jogging bottoms than the Gucci overcoat and matching loafers it was back in 2000. Why don’t I think about it? Because, I suppose, it doesn’t really matter to me any more. I am who I am, it is what it is and that, I suppose, is that.

But that is never that, is it? Even though my sexuality now fits me like a glove and is just another component in the burning mass of contradictions and personalities that make up my everyday life, for some people out there, their sexuality has a vice-like grip over every thought and action, at times protecting them and at others throwing them out into the world alone, isolated and confused.

When I have mused about being gay, I admit I have every so often in the past felt a little pang of jealousy at the ‘ease’ in which the younger generation have embraced their homosexuality. Teenage gay discos! Lady Gaga cutting herself on their behalf on stage while she’s dry-humped by leather-clad ‘twinks’! Adolescent gays bagging off with their straight mate while wearing crisp, clean vests and beatific smiles! Yes, I felt envy. Where is the pain? The anguish? The trying not to look at anybody in the changing rooms lest you’re spotted staring and branded a homo by your peers? Whither the incessant cries of ‘BENDER!’ in the school corridors by perfect strangers? Where’s the confusing feeling that something, somewhere isn’t quite right, and never will be? The answer? It’s still there. With bells on. And now it has the internet in its army.

Last week in the US, a college student named Tyler Clementii threw himself from a bridge because his roommate had secretly spied on his ‘gay trysts’ in their shared dorm room. The charming roomie proudly advertised his findings on Twitter, a site which at its worst is probably best described as the suicide note of the entire internet, and then bid his fellow classmates to join him in the spectacle of a young man kissing another young man. Told by society that if you place your lips upon another man’s, you’re less of a person and should be ashamed, the student took the option of hurling his sad, confused self bodily from a bridge rather than talk it out with campus authorities or counsellors. Why? Well, probably because he didn’t think it would be taken seriously.

Stories like this make me regret my flippancy at the new generation of young gay men coming out. For every one that does, likely three or four stay firmly wedged in the airing cupboard between ‘miserable first romance with girl you don’t fancy’ and ‘longing to be kissed by your sister’s boyfriend/ Zac Efron/ anyone who’s not female’. Talking to friends, they largely think that society at large has changed, that sexuality isn’t ‘a big deal’ and that gay people are more accepted than ever. And on the surface, I guess it would seem that way. Making homophobic comments is a crime, gay stereotypes have all but vanished from the airwaves, there’s a gay pride march practically every weekend and talent show winners are falling over themselves to bravely announce that they have a predilection for the pink oboe. Yet, that is just the surface. For every aspect that is being openly feted and embraced by Joe Public, how many are being resented and scorned?

Liberals like me find it very easy to live in our polysexual, Twitter-updating bubble, where gay couples hold hands in Kennington Park and get married, yet the world outside the bubble eyes us with just as much suspicion, fear and confusion as before. And it is this non-bubble society which drives some young gay people to believe that the best option when your sexuality is ‘uncovered’ – like it were a tattoo of a swastika secreted on your inner thigh –  is to end it all.

Who do we need to speak to, to make a difference?What can we say to them to stop them from standing peering over the edge of the bridge into the murky water below? A YouTube project called It Gets Better hopes to be the lone voice calling the troubled teen back from the edge. Gay men and women who have got through the nightmare years of name-calling, nose-breaking and sheer isolation and become well-rounded, happy individuals make videos about how they overcame all the crap that comes with being a gay adolescent. I don’t believe in gay role models or that famous people should queue up to reel off their homosexual encounters, but I do believe real people with non-Hollywood stories to tell can make a difference. I’m going to make a video soon. If you’re a boy who likes boys, a girl who likes girls or Louis Walsh, why don’t you make one too? You never know who’s watching from the edge of the bridge.

*Thanks to Lubin Odana for the heads up about the It Gets Better project


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