Sunday, 27 May 2012

Don't be so gay

With same sex marriage a hot political topic in the UK and the US, not to mention some very concerning legislature on the horizon in the Ukraine, issues around homosexuality are getting quite a bit of press at the minute (which reminds me - I still need to read and respond to the government's consultation before 14th June). I particularly enjoyed Victoria Coren's Why love trumps economics in last week's Observer; not only for its ideological argument, but also for the paragraph that ran: They [those in the Tory party revolted by the idea of gay marriage] know better than to reveal the full terrifying vision of social collapse that a gay wedding triggers in their minds: a church full of crop-haired anarchists, most of them speaking foreign languages; teenagers snorting heroin off the altar, most of them on Facebook; women publicly breastfeeding in the pews, most of them bishops; two newlywed drag queens high-fiving as a vicar in hotpants says: "You may now fist the bride."  Reading this on the train on the way back from a Northern socialist wedding (more a call to arms than celebration of romantic feeling; the groom's speech fleetingly referred to his wife before tackling the deficit, tax-avoidance and bankers' bonuses, before seguing nicely into a ceilidh), it also prompted an interesting discussion with my (straight) identical twin, over her feelings of the importance of marriage reforms for straight couples who don't want to get 'married', but instead want a 'civil partnership', to make things truly equal. Equality is a strange pigeon, as my girlfriend would say.

But, closer to home, I've been pretty frustrated recently (to put it nice and politely) with my own experience of what has ranged from latent heteronormativity to slurred bigotry, calling at casual homophobia and a few other stations on the way. Whether it's left-wing, predominantly open-minded friends who wouldn't date a bisexual, to those who don't believe lesbians can have sex, or facebook friends saying 'gay' as an insult, to people shouting stuff at me in the streets, I'M TIRED OF IT.

Picture the scene:

My beautiful girlfriend and I are about to enter a tube station to get the last train home after a night out.

GUY: Hey! I like what you're wearing (to GEM). Why don't you give me your number and maybe we could chat some more about fashion some time? (We didn't point out that this hardly constituted a conversation)

GEM: I'm OK, thanks.

GUY: Well, why don't you give me your number and you can give me a call later and tell us where you two end up, if it's any good?

GEM: Nah, it's alright. We're actually going home.

GUY: Well, why don't you give me your number anyway? (Credit should go to him for persistence, I will concede).

GEM: We're actually together (gestures at me).

GUY: (pause) Well, why don't you take my number anyway, so you can call me when you realise the strap-on's not enough, and it's a real cock you're after.

Charming. What did he think? That she was going to turn around and say, 'Oh my god, you're right! What have I been thinking?! I thought I was a lesbian, but now you've suggested it, meeting you, I've realised that all I needed was your big, giant, delicious cock to make me realise what I was missing. How silly of me....'????

Fade out.

Scene #2

Walking down the high street.

PAINT BALL GUY: Hey girls! Fancy shooting your boyfriends?

ME: I don't have a boyfriend. I have a girlfriend. You shouldn't make assumptions.

Fade out. 

Scene #3

Walking down the high street the following day.

PAINT BALL GUY #2: Hey, girl in blue.

ME: Hi. I'm not really interested in paint-balling.

PAINT BALL GUY #2: What about your friends? Or your boyfriend? Attractive girl like you must have a boyfriend.

ME: It obviously wasn't you I spoke to yesterday. I actually have a girlfriend.

GUY FROM BEFORE: Yeah - she's got a girlfriend.

PAINT BALL GUY #2: Do you both need boyfriends?

GUY FROM BEFORE: Wouldn't that slightly defeat....

Moron. Paint ball guy #2 - you disappoint me. Do we both need boyfriends?! I want to set Julie Bindel on him

Unimpressed fade out.

Scene #4

MY DOCTOR: What contraception are you using?

ME: I'm not.

DOC: Are you trying to get pregnant?

ME: No.

DOC: Do you have a boyfriend?

ME: No. I have a girlfriend.

DOC. Then there's no point going on the pill. Unless, of course, you are planning on having sex with men in the future? We're not all the bad, really!

ARGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHH. Of course Mr Doctor, because I thought you men were all disgusting and gross and horrid, and that's why I have a girlfriend. Not because I accidentally fell in love with my best friend and was lucky enough that she fell in love with me too. Of course. And now you come to mention it, Mr Young & Cocky Doctor, I've just realised that you are not all that bad, really. Just some of you.

Fade out, sexually, with Bond girls dancing and Brigitte Bardot & Serge Gainsbourg playing in the background....



  1. Kate I thought this was a really interesting bit of writing. actually the paint ball guys would have annoyed me too, because its a bit patronising to be asked if you have a boyfriend coz you are pretty. If you had told them you had a boyfriend they would have asked you if you wanted another anyway, because they are trying to be gallant. I'm not sure its worth getting worked up about it.

    I feel a bit bad for your doctor though. Coz making conversation with strangers is part of my job too, its very easy to make assumptions and feel like a tit afterwards. Like "what does your dad do?" and the student says "oh he's died." Then you correct the English because you say the first thing that comes into your head and then realise you are the biggest arse ever.

    But what can you do? Ask everyone "Is your dad alive, if so what does he do?" Instead of asking my students "Are you married? Do you have children" I could ask, "Do you have problems in your personal life? If so would you like to talk about them or not?"

    Instead of asking all youngish women "Do you have a boyfriend?" they could ask "Are you gay?" but that would be even more weird.

    Anyway very thought provoking!

    1. Hi Laruchka.

      Thanks very much for your comment, and for following my blog.

      I agree with you - I've made many a comment where afterwards I've felt like an idiot, or realised I could have accidentally offended someone and then dug a hole a mile deep. I think the difference between a slip up in conversation (and I accept that most girls I know are heterosexual, and it doesn't always both me if people ask if I have a boyfriend - unless they're shouting it at me in the street! - as it's a normal question; society isn't going to click out of its heteronormativity over night) and embedded patriarchal assumptions. E.g. you must be in a relationship with a girl because you are a man-hater. It's offensive assumptions about my feelings and choices that I take issue with. In any context, actually.

      Glad it's thought-provoking, anyway! I'm always in a state of flux and grappling, so it's nice when others meet me there :-) x