Douglas Bastard's Rants of Rage

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This article was written on 25 Aug 2014, and is filled under Uncategorized.

Gay

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Vicky Beeching’s decision to come out strikes me as a hugely courageous thing to do. To anyone who doesn’t know who she is, Ms Beeching is the Oxford-educated musician who made a name for herself in the US by recording a string of Christian-influenced rock albums and has become a media commentator on faith in the UK.

And there are a few reasons why it’s remarkably brave, some of which are obvious and one that might strike you as being surprising.

I’ve lived part of my life being so hugely concerned that I would in some way annoy other people that actively saying ‘I’m gay’ to an audience that comprises, in part, vigorous and allegedly Christian homophobes, seems to fly in the face of such cringing feebleness. This is a decision that, by her own admission, she’s agonised over for much of her life and that does not come lightly, but that is clearly the right one. The lie stands exposed.

But if coming out to unseen people is one thing, coming out to your family seems to be quite another. From my interpretation of her story, her parents would be happier if she wasn’t gay and here again, I’ve spent a very long time indeed being so pathetically concerned what my own parents thought of me that her decision seems like the bravest possible folly.

The final reason is that, for about five years, I thought I was gay. I lived in a self-created world of utter and remorseless shame, buttressed by the aggressive homophobia and swaggering, aggressive masculinity of the people I was at school with. Being gay was not an identity I wanted. At all.

This conviction that I was gay started when I was thirteen and seemed so brilliantly characteristic of me. I was such a monumental fuck-up, so this logic went, that I couldn’t even go through puberty properly and had ended up fancying boys instead. I was so convinced of my own perversion, often given a sharp edge by seeing members of the same sex that I was aware I found attractive, that I took sex and pushed it far, far away.

In a mixed-sex school, the subject came up with banal regularity. Which of the girls boys had wanked over, how many porn films they’d seen and what they would do to various female members of the staff or student body given half a chance. Perhaps to my credit, I couldn’t join in because I knew that I wasn’t that good an actor and was worried I’d be found out as a sham.

And the result was that I was a target of no small mockery and finished up being labelled as gay anyway. By this time, we were in the sixth form and the treatment given to the one person who was openly gay was horrific, varying between mockery and contempt. This was not something I wanted to invite by being openly sexually uncertain. I determined early on that nothing I said or did was going to make up people’s minds for them, so I kept my own counsel and laughed off the snide comments.

Probably as a result, I became the kind of bellicose right wing, teenage idiot beloved of the Conservative Party, calling for all manner of draconian punishments for minor infractions and advocating for policies that were but one step removed from actual insanity. If you suspect that I was hopelessly over-compensating, you’d be absolutely right, but there were two things that helped challenge this worldview and started to change how I saw myself.

The first was Morrissey, whose music didn’t save my life but made it a whole lot more bearable. He was openly sexually ambiguous and yet clearly allied with the gay side of his personality, while all the time not seeming to care. He made music that spoke to me and that said I shouldn’t care, either, which was a tempting philosophy. By openly liking his solo music and The Smiths, you were making a statement about sexuality and a range of other things that was too powerful for me to resist.

Which brings me to the second thing. This was when I had first started drinking and first started going to the pub which, with characteristic genius, I had waited until I was nineteen to feel comfortable with. I had been in the pub on a boozy Friday night and a girl called AL asked if I wanted to meet up in the week. I said yes, not because I thought she was asking me out, but because I enjoyed talking to her.

As the following week rolled around, I went to meet her with an almost endearing lack of guile in the pub opposite my parents’ house and remember making her laugh without really trying, which did my ego no end of good. We walked back to her car, forever etched in my mind as a Ford XR2 and she said, simply ‘get in.’ Which I did.

She went to kiss me and, in a voice too high and too shrill to have been mine, that I didn’t know what to do. AL told me to open my mouth and, while my sexual odyssey may have been a short one lasting only a few years, it was under way. I wasn’t as gay as I had thought and it turned out that, in the most part, I was actually pretty straight.

Gay people, I’m sure, don’t want or need my sympathy. Life put me outside their world, as cis and as sodden in unseen, unexamined privilege as I can be. I don’t know what it’s like to have to walk the final mile and actually come out and deal with all the fallout, just as I don’t know what it’s like to feel physically unsafe because the person I’m holding hands with is the wrong gender, or keep my private life hidden for years for fear of censure.

For all that, I have seen, albeit in the very smallest part, what life can look like when your sexuality places you on the outside of a world where people are very much ‘in’ and where you fear becoming the joke – or worse. That’s why, to me, Vicky Beeching seems like the bravest person on earth at the moment. She has walked the totality of the road, step after painful step, and realised that love is waiting at the end. And that’s a good place to be.

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