Last week, my workplace held a session to reflect on what it means to be LGBT and to have faith. To think about God’s unlimited, intimate love for all of us – whoever we are. To give time to pray together and to reflect on what Jesus means to LGBT+ people.
I am privileged to work in such a place.
The prayer we said together, written by one of my colleagues, is here:
As I grew up, and came to know myself, I learnt how I didn’t quite fit into the world. A world built for those not like me – normal people.
In the tangled, layered mess that is our society structured by privilege, I do pretty well. I can’t imagine the experience of those queer folk – queer in the broadest sense of different – whose radical identities are routinely refused; whose heritage is one of the deepest oppression and pain.
Though I can’t speak for everyone outside of the normal, I want to learn – to be ready to listen, to bolster others with the power that society, through privilege, arbitrarily bestowed upon me.
I think that living as queer gives us all a power, however.
One Direction. Five ordinary lads who have achieved international stardom. There’s a part of me which feels sorry for them. I would imagine that Simon Cowell is a cruel and harsh taskmaster who runs the boys through the ringer, extracting every last pound and penny he possibly can. Then there’s another part of me which feels that the boys need a round of applause. Don’t get me wrong, Cowell is doing very well out of them, but then again, they’re doing pretty well for themselves (especially as they have shares in 5SOS – http://www.popjustice.com/briefing/2014-a-z-o-is-for-one-directions-secret-investment/133340/).
They use their talents (vocally and visually) to good effect and have achieved more money than I could ever dream of earning at their age. Then there’s the other part of me which is annoyed by them. They sing mediocre (yet catchy) songs and get shed loads of money for it (and that’s before we take into account all the merchandise and 1D paraphernalia attached – as tempting as that pink tinged box of 1D eau de toilette is, I’ll give it a miss thanks).
Yet there’s something more than just how much is in the old piggy bank here. Now, it should be no secret that there’s a little tinge of “sexual deviancy” amongst the boys. Looking in the darker recesses and abysses of the internet, we may find rumours of Harry Style’s bisexuality (well that’s okay because he still likes girls) or, heaven forbid, homosexuality. The latter conjecture is added to even more when it is rumoured he has had a fling with Radio 1’s morning delight Nick Grimshaw. Hold the press – surely not?!
“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.
Speaking as a teacher, I prize education over a good many things in this world and as so much value is put on it, we have to get it right and whilst this is not always possible, we always try our best. Now, there are a great deal of important subjects out there, but there is always one lesson in the education system which was and is viewed as a ‘doss’ (as I am reliably informed) by many students.
PSHE. Or PSHCE. Or PSHEE. Or whatever you want to call it. Basically, that lesson (or, as I have heard at some schools – that time in form time) where points are discussed that bear some relevance on real life – a novelty in an educational establishment some may argue. Reformed criminals are brought in to tell pupils of their story and how they realised the error of their ways; former drug addicts are brought in to counsel against taking drugs; bank managers are brought in to discuss the finer points of mortgages and fitness coaches are brought in to rhapsodise about leading a healthy lifestyle.
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.
He’s pretty hot. She’s so fit.
A total 10.
Sound familiar? You bet. For those who identify as sexual, it’s life. Whether internal monologue or cheeky chat with friends, these little declarations of desire punctuate the everyday.
We’re conditioned with a framework of beauty ideals. We know what makes the perfect male or female form. Sure, we combine these with our own idiosyncratic wants, what turns us on. Some of us might have a ‘type’, others embrace the unexpected. But the truth is, these concepts of beauty, culturally specific and constructed, exert a huge pressure on sexuality.
Beauty, that set of unattainable ideals. That audaciously fraudulent fiction.