An article appeared in today’s Sunday Indepedent. The headline screamed –
‘Loud and proud gays want to take over rest of society’
Judging by Twitter the article, written by Eamon Delaney, has raised a few eyebrows in some circles and downright offended in others. I agree with him. This is why.
I was adopted. I was raised in a happy home. I was a lucky boy. I am a lucky man. Growing up I found it difficult to tell people I was adopted. People got the wrong idea. ‘Home and Away’ was the youth soap of the day. The show centred around a couple who took it upon themselves to foster as many kids as they could store in their Summer Bay roost. The foster kids had back stories which were laced with alcoholic parents, criminality, drugs, antisocial behaviour, death, misery and suffering. Most of the kids appeared in the show with some kind of ‘issue’ needing to be addressed. Kids of my age equated my adoption with the foster kids of Summer Bay. I hadn’t the debating skills nor the energy to argue my case. It was easier to say nothing.
My relative silence in relation to being adopted was superceded later on in life by my silence in relation to my sexuality. It was always easier to admit being gay to total strangers than it was to say the words to many close friends, aquaintances or family members. Many of those, despite being well exposed to gay people, had few occasions to be socially linked to ‘out’ people. Others had rather odd preconceptions of what it was to be gay. Others, for whatever reason, (thankfully) stopped acknowledging me. My nature was to minimise any awkwardness and say nothing. After all, how often have I been in a situation where someone has sat me down, told me he has something to say and come out with the words, “Nigel, I am straight”? I have never defined myself as ‘gay’. Whats more, it shouldn’t be anyone’s business.
Why, therefore, would I write an entry such as this on a public blog? Reading the reaction to a piece of journalism which criticised the gay agenda angered me. There is a growing sense that the only way to respond to gay issues these days is to agree. Any dissent is knocked back. It is homophobic. It is against equality. It is bullying. I would argue that my experience on the train trip showed equally heterophobic, abusive, reactionary behaviour by a group of people who felt the need to shout in order to be heard. This is not uncommon on the scene. Vive la difference I say, but not if it deliberately makes the rest of society feel uncomfortable, embarassed, offended or upset. My companions in Manchester that afternoon did nothing to further their cause. When I criticised, I was turned upon.
Two months ago David Norris officially announced his candidacy for the role of President of Ireland. There was no one prouder than myself. A gay man was not only being considered for the position but was genuinely being tipped to win. Early opinion poles put him way ahead. As the Ezra Nawi issue developed many began to question attempts at ‘homophobic sabotage’. On a fateful Saturday afternoon I listened as Claire Byrne, filling in for Marion Finucane, revealed the issue of letters written on Senate notepaper in support of Nawi. There was no doubt in my mind. Norris’ judgement was called to question. Supporters of Norris continued to stand by him and continued to use the words ‘homophobic’ and ‘anti-gay’. My decision was made that morning. I was able to see the wood from the trees. It would have been nice to see Norris in the Aras but events convinced me that he was not suitable. It was not about his sexuality and was not about a group of homophobic people sabotaging his campaign. It was about his judgement. The hardline gay ‘activists’ could not see that. They shouted “discrimination” from the rooftops. When the sensible criticised, they were turned upon. In the end, sense prevailed.
Eamon Delaney refers to an article by Suzanne Moore in the Guardian last week in which she calls gay marriage as a conservative ‘selling out’. “Should being gay not be fundementally about being edgy and experimental”, she questions. Delaney then mentions the elephant in the room:
“Isn’t this part of the problem? Many gays want to have it both ways. Thus gay magazines are full of ads endorsing late-night gyms, sex lines and a freewheeling sex activity wich would be dismissed as sleazy in heterosexual culture. But we also have articles that suggest a yearning for bourgeouis respectability”.
Take any ‘gay’ magazine. Be it commercial or free you can bet your bottom dollar that there will be the usual articles dealing with issues such as gay adoption, gay marriage v gay civil partnership, gay soldiers, gay rugby players or GAA stars, Kylie, X Factor etc etc etc. However the predominant theme running through all of these magazines will be sex. “Sex sells”, they say and in the gay community this is a rule that is never broken. I have seen plenty of ads for prostitutes in telephone booths in my day. On the gay scene there is no need for phone booths. The last 30 pages of your average gay mainstream magazine is full of them. I don’t know where straight people go to have their orgies but on the gay scene the underground saunas will be advertised via full page ads in these gay community publications. I have rarely heard my straight couple friends discuss their threesomes in the local bar but in the gay community it is a coffee topic and actively pursued on massively popular websites such as Gaydar, LadsLads and apps such as Grindr.
From Quebeq to Queensland, Copenhagen to Cape Town, the gay scene is homogenous. There is an unwritten rule, a subconcious acceptance as to what is expected. Limerick’s one and only gay bar boasts an advertisement for a sex sauna on a piece of poorly designed A4 paper stuck to the neon drowned walls. I am no prude but if you are telling me that this is the done thing in every mainstream ‘straight’ bar or magazine then you are talking complete and utter bullshit. Straight people have to actively seek sex in order to get it. Gays have it pushed in their face from the get go.
Listening to Derek Mooney’s show recently I was suprised to hear a review of an iPhone app called Blendr. The app allows people to use their GPS facility to identify people nearby with similar interests. Simple titbits of information are entered, photos are uploaded and Bob’s your uncle. The world of internet dating suddenly becomes closer to your doorstep than ever before. The fact is that Blendr was designed and devised by the same developer who created the gay equivalent – Grindr. Grindr has become a phenomenon. You download and with minutes have immediate access to men in your vicinity and beyond. Depending on how close you are to an urban centre you can be guaranteed to have 100’s of people with reach. It is universally accepted in the gay community that Grindr is a hook up site, no more no less. Men can click a profile and provided ‘stats’ fit – anything can be yours, instantly. Grindr is a phenomenon. Blendr, the straight version, has yet to take off. Despite all the bravado, could it be that the straight community are less quick and ready to act on the ‘hooking up’ front than their gay counterparts? Sex is what the gay community is about.
“Do you have a Gaydar account?”, is a common chat up line on the gay scene. Gaydar is another bestselling website which allows you to create a profile ‘advertising’ yourself to the millions of other subscribers around the world. At present the Gaydar website boasts 6 million members from 140 countries. It is simply a phenomenon. Again it works on the basis of locality and GPS, although there is the ‘travel’ facility whereby one can organise ‘meets’ or ‘hookups’ long before you even arrive at a chosen work or holiday destination. I discovered Gaydar around the time I moved to London. There are two types of people who use Gaydar. Decent people hoping to come across new friends, gym buddies, concert companions, drinks aquaintances or loves of their lives. In this instance Gaydar is used as a chat/messaging tool which can and has in my case resulted in the creation of lasting friendships. In another, and most common instance, Gaydar is a means to acquire immediate sex. Straight friends of mine stare at me open mouthed when I tell them the details of Gaydar or Grindr. Many say they wish it was that easy for them. Sites like Gaydar whilst available are just not as prevalent in the straight community. Finding a partner in life should be cherished yet it is common in gay circles to use Gaydar or Grindr to push for the next best thing. Sex is what the gay community is about.
In being adopted into a great family with a loving home I was exceptionally lucky. My upbringing is testament to the wonderful gift that that adoption is. I have no doubt that two men or two women can provide all the love that I was given by my parents. My fear is this. The nature of the gay community - predominantly focused on issues around sex and experimentation – cannot sustain long term relationships let alone solid homebases for children. I recently performed at a civil partnership of a couple who have been together for many years. Both deserved to have their relationship recognised legally. Both deserved a day where they could profess their love for each other in front of family and friends. Both looked into each others eyes and wept. I was profoundly moved. It was clear they had an undying love for each other. The faces of the guests, many of whom were middle aged straight couples, said it all. They were also moved. I experienced an afternoon where I was proud to be gay. The unfortunate thing is that in the 12 years since I said the words ‘I am gay’ I have come across very few friends who have sustained long term relationships. Yes, of course straight relationships break down but one thing I have often heard is that the children are what sustain relationships through the tough times. I do not believe that the track record of successful, sustained and long-lasting gay relationships is strong enough to merit the argument for equality in relation to gay adoption versus straight adoption.
Writing this response to Eamon Delaney’s Sunday Independent article was instinctive and natural for me. I am not embarrassed about being gay. I am proud of people like David Norris who fought so hard to gain acceptance for gay people in this country. However I feel the time must come when the (as often quoted) 10% of our society accept that fundamental changes that have already been made. There are still many important issues that need to be addressed in the Trans community and in support for young people coming out, for example. Until such time as the gay community accepts that it cannot nor will ever be equal let alone a majority it will never be able to accept the criticism that comes its way. All causes will push on for the next best thing, and they are right to do so. The fact that issues such as gay adoption or gay marriage are even on the debating table is a great thing. But gay people must accept that points of view, from whatever stance, must be regarded with respect.
Eamon Delaney said something today that many, gay and straight, are also thinking. He questioned gay marriage, he questioned gay adoption and he questioned the sexualised nature of the gay community. He will now feel the wrath of the staunch gay activists and single minded scene conversationists. Those who epitomise 'Pride' will see Delaney as prejudiced. I’m gay. I’m on Eamon’s side.