Saturday, 9 February 2013

"It's Just A Phase!": Sir John Stanley Isn't Completely Wrong Though

My first experience of sexual education happened in the final year of primary school. The girls got a long education session and a bag full of stuff to prepare them for puberty. Us boys, meanwhile, just got a little book. The book was mainly just pointing out what was about to happen to us physically and had an FAQ at the back. One of the questions it dealt with was something along the lines of "I've been having sexual thoughts about other boys, is this normal?"

The booklet answered that question with (and I paraphrase except the "it will pass" ending which stuck in my mind very clearly) "Yes, many boys have dreams involving other boys but this is just a natural phase and it will pass." The certainty of that answer left me in denial for 5 years. I kept telling myself it was just a phase. It'd go away and soon enough I'd start finding girls attractive. Thankfully I accepted the inevitable when I was 14 as it was pretty obvious girls weren't doing it for me. I was lucky, I know plenty of other men took far longer to acknowledge how they felt.

When my Mum and stepfather found out about my sexuality (mere weeks after I accepted it myself) my Mum sat at the kitchen table and through tears cried "It's just a phase. It's just a phase" over and over. Thankfully by the next morning things were very different, and have been ever since, but that evening of horror will remain with me forever.

So "It's just a phase" is not a concept I look upon very favourably. And my knee-jerk reaction to Sir John Stanley's reason for being against equal marriage is "BIGOT!"

"I consider that enshrining gay marriage into law will be unhelpful, and in some cases positively damaging, to young people going through the perfectly normal phase of being attracted to other young people of the same sex before arriving at a heterosexual orientation subsequently." 
But if we put aside my jerked knee, he does have a point. Young people often do go through a phase of being attracted to people of the same sex. Experimentation and what not. But where he goes wrong is in believing that, somehow, equal marriage will somehow interrupt their discovery of heterosexuality, as if all us gays just got lost somewhere in puberty on our journey to straightdom. That is not quite how it works. If one were to believe this, then all expression of homosexuality (both public and private) would need to be banned to ensure children all arrived at the "right" destination. One has to believe that you can somehow "choose" your sexuality and making homosexuality a little less odious might "encourage" people into that "lifestyle" for his point to make any sense.

When I accepted my homosexuality I had to deal with something pretty powerful; the realisation that I would never marry and have kids. You don't realise how much that version of the future is promoted to you throughout your childhood until you see it disappear. Even at 14, I felt that the future that had been carefully laid out before me by my family and by school was now destroyed. I had to remake my dreams from scratch. Equal marriage won't encourage people to be gay, but it might help some teens (and their parents) get through the shock of coming out. That can only be a good thing.

1 comment:

Chris Young said...

When I came out (aged 14/15), I knew I wasn't 100% gay. To be accepted in the gay world (having been rejected by society at large), however, too often involved the idea of renouncing different-sex attraction in its entirety. Now, aged 38, I am trying to get a handle on the other side of my sexuality. I can't help feeling that I would be more likely to be in a heterosexual union had I not been forced to pick a side by a society that is still reluctant to embrace the fluidity and continuum of human sexuality.