BEDM14: What’s The Problem?

Yesterday I posted a rather flippant post comparing Facebook and Twitter to having kids. The reason for avoiding the prompt ‘Facebook or Twitter?’ was because I feared the resulting blog would end in a diatribe not against Facebook, but more the people that use it.

I’m still not going to go into it, I don’t want to upset anyone just to make an interesting blog. There’s plenty about what people do on Facebook that annoys me, but to be honest it probably says more about me, than it does about them. I could go on and on and on about some of the things that people do and their response would most likely be: What’s the problem?

That’s what this blog is about. It’s my ‘What’s the Problem?’ to something that I recently read in the latest issue of Attitude magazine.

It was an opinion piece by Iain Dale, there isn’t an online version that I can find, so you’ll have to buy a copy of the magazine to read his full article (But why wouldn’t you? There’s a lovely picture of Ben Hardy aka Peter Beale off of EastEnders on the cover).

It is an opinion piece, and I can’t stress that enough, because if it’s his opinion, then that’s fine. He’s entitled to it, but I’m entitled to disagree. It was subtitled Where are the ‘normal’ gay people on TV?

Dale makes a lot of really good points. The article in itself is questioning why sexuality is used as an adjective, as if it’s something that defines a person. He notes that he was described in The Observer as ‘Iain Dale, the gay Conservative candidate’.

Conservative candidate should be a suitable enough label for him – unless the article in itself (Dale doesn’t mention what the article was about) was specifically around gay issues, in which case the label of gay would add context to the article.

There are two sections of his piece that I object to.

Even EastEnders, the show which broke new ground in the late 1980s by screening the first fay kiss fell for the gay stereotype ‘Muscle Mary’ character, Christian

And then later:

One of the few places on TV where you find completely ordinary gay people is in the news. I say ordinary – they are generally extraordinary people, but the thing they have in common is that most people wouldn’t even know they are gay

There are many kinds of homophobia in this world, and the one we all object to is heterosexuals discriminating against homosexuals simply for the fact that they are homosexual.

What troubles me is when homosexuals discriminate against other homosexuals.

If I was a young gay boy reading a copy of Attitude Magazine for the first time, I would be troubled by Dale’s opinion piece. His unconsidered us of the word ‘normal’ is troubling.

What he is linking normal to is people not being able to tell that they are gay. What he is linking normal, whether he intends to or not, is being able to pass as straight.

What he’s actually saying is that these people – and he lists several examples – are not camp.

The people he lists, among them are Clare Balding, Evan Davis and Paddy O’Connell are people that don’t make you ‘automatically think ‘gay’’ but then he goes onto qualify that in O’Connell’s case he would ‘make an exception but only when he’s presenting the Eurovision semis’

Dale wants less camp people on TV. And that’s ok. But it’s not ok to infer that these people are not normal, or that they don’t exist.

Christian Clarke from EastEnders may well be a Muscle Mary stereotype. But these people exist. They deserve a place on our television screens.

I’m not exactly butch – I have a slight wiggle when I walk, and I know my way around a well-timed eyebrow raise – so Iain Dale’s article hits home slightly.

I recently was speaking to a chap on Grindr. Lovely guy, liked him quite a lot, but he told me he didn’t like camp guys. This led to a discussion in my office among a couple of them, where we agreed that on the scale, I’m probably a six – that means I’m not whole row of tents, but I’m more than just a one person pop-up.

I worried over meeting him, I thought he would immediately take offence if I spoke with a slightly higher voice than he, or if I ordered vodka tonic instead of a beer.

I probably shouldn’t have been worried, he was camper than me, not by much, but if I’m a six, then he was a seven – that doesn’t bother me. What does bother me is that I did get worried about it. I worried about changing who I am.

It’s 2014. We shouldn’t have to worry about hiding ourselves away and trying to be ‘ordinary’ so that people don’t know we’re gay.

It’s fine to campaign for a wider representation of gay men and women in our media, but we need to stop using the word normal when we mean non-camp.

Prompt: What’s the Problem

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