Saturday, 30 January 2016

So I've Read Lynne Featherstone's "#EqualEverAfter"...

It has been a couple of years since the end of the same-sex marriage debates and it is about time we got some insider knowledge of how same-sex marriage went from fringe issue (fringe even within the LGBT community, trust me... I was there!) to actual legislation.

And Lynne Featherstone was a central figure within that, there is not denying it. Now there's been some unkind mocking, including from me, of the way the book has been portrayed as being all about how Featherstone was the one and only person behind same-sex marriage becoming law. But let's get this out of the way from the start: even without reading what is in this book we all know she played an immensely important part in getting same-sex marriage on to the agenda and through Parliament. She justly deserves respect and appreciation for that.

So... the book. There are no massive revelations in it for any of us who followed the news and social media updates at the time. I don't think there's any surprise in how Theresa May gave Featherstone's proposals her blessing, how David Cameron got in the way of opposite-sex civil partnerships or how the churches and fellow travellers reacted.

Nor should any of us be surprised that Chris Bryant, Labour MP, "battled ferociously" against the idea at first and "didn't see the point". Nor how Ben Summerskill was "very dismissive" until the hard part was over when he was "literally lording it and loving it".

Basically if you read Pink News, or even just this humble blog!, you'd probably be well aware of all this stuff and more.

This book is not really a book about same-sex marriage, it is a book about how Lynne Featherstone got us same-sex marriage. It is a memoir and, if anything, merely one source for the yet-to-be written full history of the fight for equal marriage (also yet to be finished!).

Is it worth buying? Probably not. It's written in a very easy to read conversational style, broken down into themes rather than strictly chronological and perfect for a commuting read. But... it just didn't tell me anything important than what I knew already.

The one interesting little detail I saw was mention of Ed Fordham attempting to turn Tim Farron on the issue... using scripture! Ugh. I'm glad I'm out of that party now.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Going Against The Grain On David Mundell's Coming Out

There's few moments in one's life as important as a gay man's "coming out". Maybe it is just to a friend, maybe to the whole world. But it will come with fear, relief and often celebration (especially where it happens voluntarily).

So I have a great deal of sympathy for David Mundell. In his fifties and now in the public eye, he has come out as gay.

But where I think I differ from a lot of people is that I have a variety of emotions about it which never seem to be reflected in the press coverage and social media applause.

  • This is a bittersweet moment for any gay man of Mundell's age, based on my personal experience. For although now the tension between private and public has been relieved, there is no turning back the clock. No chance to experience the life of the openly gay young man, an opportunity now forever missed. A tragedy for many men in Mundell's situation. 
  • Though I have no doubt it was difficult for Mundell to come and took personal courage, a man of Mundell's position is hardly at much risk of personal injury or insult in this day and age. Glib comments about his bravery must sting the young boy struggling in school, desperate to hide his true feelings from the savages that lurk within every school waiting for the first sniff of weakness or non-conformity. Now a boy coming out there... that takes real bravery!
  • Many often make out the story of a man of his age coming out will be inspirational to young gay guys facing a similar choice. This is hardly credible. How many young gay guys find themselves "inspired" by a politician in his 50s coming out? Most of them won't even know he did (or ever hear his name) for politics is not exactly the realm of the majority. And what is inspirational about a man who spent decades coming to terms with his sexuality? Is that something to aspire too? I'd hope not. 
  • Every time I see a news story about someone coming out, I just think "And?". Why is that even a news story nowadays? Man acknowledges he finds other men attractive. Wow. Mind-blowing. NEXT!
I know it is easy for someone like me who had a very gentle and easy coming out experience, with supportive friends and little trauma, to pontificate but these stories have started to grate with the glib comments and public self-congratulation from the great and good. Moments like are absolutely personally important to the person involved. But it is far gone time we just stopped caring about it. 

It'd all be a lot easier if our forebears had heeded Harvey Milk's advice 40 years ago. Alas. 

“Gay brothers and sisters,... You must come out. Come out... to your parents... I know that it is hard and will hurt them but think about how they will hurt you in the voting booth! Come out to your relatives... come out to your friends... if indeed they are your friends. Come out to your neighbors... to your fellow workers... to the people who work where you eat and shop... come out only to the people you know, and who know you. Not to anyone else. But once and for all, break down the myths, destroy the lies and distortions. For your sake. For their sake. For the sake of the youngsters who are becoming scared by the votes from Dade to Eugene"