WHEN high profile people come out it’s a cause for celebration. (Sorry, I know this will break the flow but I need to get this off my chest – it’s a tautology to say “come out as gay”.
I know it’s the thing to say we’re coming out as a lawn bowler or a model railway enthusiast, but the original coming out was about sexual identity so no qualifier is needed. And the same applies to “lesbian woman” – there’s no need, the first bit tells us the last bit.)
Apologies for that digression, best not get me started on the proper use of a semi-colon…
Anyway, when people in the public eye swing open the closet door and leap, rainbow-flag waving, into the brave new world of being openly gay, I usually feel three things. First, proud, delighted that they’ve taken what is for most people a liberating, life-changing step. Second, I calibrate my gaydar – did I know? Could I have guessed? Or was I taken totally by surprise? Third, I enjoy knowing that there’s someone else like me.
I don’t feel entirely comfortable admitting that final one. I’ve been out for more than 20 years, I feel as though I should be comfortable enough in my own sexual identity that I shouldn’t need to feel buoyed up by knowing that Q from the Bond movies is in a civil partnership. But I do. And that’s what it’s like when you live as a gay person in a culture where there are lots of people who believe that what and who you are isn’t OK.
And when Aussie swimmer Ian Thorpe and theologian and commentator Vicky Beeching recently came out, I have felt another response to add to my list – it’s a combination between sadness and fury. What struck me about Thorpe and Beeching – both in their 30s – was the decades of anguish they suffered before they felt able to be open about being gay. For Thorpe, there was depression and struggles with alcohol. For Beeching, a pop star in America’s Bible belt, it was an auto-immune disease, linear scleroderma morphea, thought to be brought on by stress. That was the catalyst she needed to realise that not being open about who she is was harming her. She promised herself she’d come out by the age of 35. It was her birthday last month.
That Beeching hasn’t rejected her faith is almost baffling to someone like me. Why would you want to remain part of a community which has, at worst, degraded you (Beeching was subjected to a kind of exorcism when she was 16) and, at best, tolerates you (hate the sin, love the sinner)? But for Beeching, and many other gay Christians, this is not the question which arises. Her faith is “precious”, her understanding of Christianity is that it’s about “inclusion and love”. If you saw the discussion between Pastor Scott Lively and Beeching on Channel 4 News the other night then you don’t need me to tell you there are other views within Christianity that are far less palatable. But for Beeching, the task is now to be part of helping the Church to change. I only hope they know how lucky they are to have her.
Trolls reveal dark side of Twitter
IAM forever banging on about how brilliant Twitter is – oh the laughs, oh the breaking news, oh the cat pictures. Alas, in recent days the slimy, stinking underbelly of social media has been painfully revealed. I don’t want to spend too much time getting into the mindset of someone who would send a disturbing Photoshopped image of a recently deceased man to his shocked and grieving daughter. I’m just about managing to hold on to the belief that someone like that isn’t just in a tiny minority, but is a truly unfortunate anomaly. Alas, this was only the most extreme form of trolling that Zelda Williams, daughter of Robin, was subjected to in the aftermath of her father’s death. Before it went this dark, she had remained dignified and positive in the face of incomprehensible hostility. “As for those of you who are sending negativity,” she wrote on her Tumblr, “know that some small, giggling part of him is sending a flock of pigeons to your house to poop on your car. Right after you’ve had it washed. After all, he loved to laugh too.” But even that she had to write this is grim. Twitter has claimed that it will take action against people who abuse others in this way. But if it finally does, it feels a bit like it’s too little, too late. I couldn’t help but think that if those stories about the internet being nearly full and ready to implode are true, then really how upset should we be?
We want Velma
IDON’T look to Simon Cowell as some kind of cultural soothsayer. Musically we’re talking One Direction and as film producer we’re staring into the abyss that is Pudsey (The Dog): The Movie. Yup. It’s a quality-free zone. But things are only likely to get worse, since out of the pantheon of female cartoon characters, the one he’s bringing to the big screen is Betty Boop. That’s right, she of the anatomical impossibility, the garter-flashing, eye-batting, “boop boop be doop” simpering. May I offer some alternatives? How about Angelica Pickles from Rugrats? Or Turanga Leela from Futurama. Or Mavis from Willow The Wisp. Or Velma from Scooby-Doo (clearly a lesbian – that hair, those specs). Come on Cowell, for once, do the right thing. «