The other week, I was lucky enough to be invited to a friend’s wedding and it was absolutely first class. The wine was flowing, the chat poured forth and the music was decanted effortlessly.
To have a rest from our crazy dancing (we were partying hard), myself and one of the other guests took a seat at the downstairs bar, away from the music upstairs. We ended up chatting to the barman who, on the surface, seemed a very pleasant chap. He was telling us about the local area, the celebrities he had served in the past and humouring our weird sense of humour. (I would like to point out here that I was completely and utterly sober).
We ended up talking about sexuality, as it inevitably comes up in good conversation, and I professed that I was homoromantic – sex doesn’t bother me, but a loving relationship does (and a good snog every now and again never goes amiss).
At this point, said barman says “No dude, that’s not right… I reckon that says something quite dark about your mind.”
“Have you got a girlfriend sir?”
Such a question is faced by many male teachers and for the vast majority, it would probably be simple to answer. A quick ‘Yes’ would undoubtedly send a class spiralling into innumerable questions about what the girlfriend was like, when the wedding would be, when the first child would be, how they would fit four children and a dog into a car on a holiday to Scunthorpe etc etc.
Yet, what if the answer was ‘No’. They see a ring on my finger.
“Are you married sir?”
“No,” I reply, as the ring is on my right hand. A young, male teacher who hasn’t got a girlfriend or isn’t married? The pupils now need to tread a little more carefully. They are aware that something is “amiss”.
“Are you a lad then sir?”
“If you mean am I bachelor, then yes I am.”
Oh thank goodness. We can put a label on him. But bachelor… what does that even mean?
Well folks, if you must know I’m gay. I thought I was asexual for a time, but then realised I’m still into men, so I believe that places me as homoromantic. And now let’s get back to Don Pedro in Much Ado About Nothing.
You’re blatantly gay.
Anyone heard this little gem before? Because I got it a lot growing up.
My uneasy relationship with masculinity was a likely cause. I’ve never ticked off many of the acceptable masc traits: I chose books over sports; I’ve a longstanding penchant for weekends spent baking. I’ve naturally had many meaningful friendships with girls. And my vaguely camp manner’s had me compared to Stephen Fry more than once (‘course, I’ve always taken this comparison for what it is – the ultimate life validation.)
But outward behaviour has little to do with sexuality. I’ve met very few people who’ve authentically satisfied all of the traditional masculine or feminine roles – roles which are themselves intrinsically contradictory. Historically determined and arbitrary. The course of binary genders never did run smooth.
In the gospel of Mark, Jesus gives the second of his ultimate commandments:
Love your neighbour as yourself.
How familiar, how oft repeated, how beautiful. Jesus tells us to love God with all we are, the necessary extension being to love our neighbour unconditionally.
Love your neighbour as yourself. How powerfully this resonates with LGBTQA+ people. How many times have we heard the sentiment tacked on to the most cruel of judgements, the most unthinking assessments of our identities, the most bitter rejections of who we are? How tragic that such a pure message of love could be soiled when coupled with the most condescending refusals of how we feel ourselves to be.