Saturday, 15 November 2008

The un-climax of beginning

So, here we go. Despite writing some form of original material every day I have never kept a blog, which seems a bit strange. Perhaps because I've lived in gossip-dominated communities my whole life, and now I'm half in, half out I've realised that I really can't bear gossip, although I suppose it has its function in the creation of community - it's just a shame it has to isolate someone by making them the object, not the participant, of the conversation. Anyway, perhaps I've always felt too uncertain of myself to keep a blog. This doesn't mean I feel any less sure about things now; just I've realised that most people are as inconsistent and whirly in their views as I am.

I suppose a useful way to begin would be to set out some basic things about myself, but I'd rather let it evolve more organically, and not have to summarise 'me' before I begin. I've just returned to this post after watching 'We Are Much Amused' on ITV, the series of comedians performing to celebrate Prince Charles's 60th. Mostly very funny, but I think Stephen K. Amos ought to stop talking about being black. His other material is extremely good - quips he's made on Mock the Week, for instance - and I can't help but feel we'd all forget about his skin colour if he talked about a variety of things, rather than a series of variations on one subject. If he didn't restrict his subject matter so much we might just start to think of him as a very good comedian, rather than wondering what insights he'll have about racism this time.

I have the same thoughts about women's rights and gay rights. It's noticeable that, say, kd lang is often referred to as 'lesbian singer kd lang', whereas male gay celebrities are not marked out in this way. Perhaps this is because lang has spoken quite openly about being gay, and indeed Sandy Toksvig's sexuality is not often mentioned, or Clare Balding's, but frankly I don't think it should necessarily be mentioned at all. You wouldn't refer to Leona Lewis as 'black singer Leona Lewis', would you? It's the same principle - a part of your identity, more or less unchangeable (Michael Jackson being the exception to this rule as he is to many), and as unremarkable as the colour of your hair. That homosexuality is still 'remarked' upon so frequently and with such intrigue - who could forget the lyrics of that infuriating Katie Perry song, 'I kissed a girl ... It felt so wrong, it felt so right'? - suggests that it hasn't yet become any kind of norm.

Saying that, the relatively chilled-out attitude of gossip magazines (at least in this country) towards Lindsay Lohan and Sam Ronson, who is these days usually referred to as her 'girlfriend' or 'partner' without any flagging-up of their sexuality, is definitely encouraging. Perhaps this great excitement over a fairly public gay relationship will mean that the next time a similar revelation occurs, we'll be a bit less excited, and eventually we won't give a damn whether someone's gay, straight or anywhere in between, or none of the above. Perhaps eventually we'll dispense with the very ideas of 'gay' and 'straight' and 'bi'. I can't help smiling when men say things like, 'I'd go gay for Johnny Depp' (a popular choice for this kind of confession, by the way). It's as if acknowledging that there is a part of your personality which is attracted to the same sex, but doing so whilst highlighting that you're not gay for the moment (and, if you carry on using a celebrity for this kind of statement, you're not likely to 'be' gay in the future) is like a safety valve on sexual drives. 'I'd go gay for Johnny Depp' means that a little part of you, at least, already is gay, but you'd have to be tempted by something seriously covetable before you'd 'make the switch', as it were. Why is it seen as such a big risk? I know guys who are quite happy to admit they fancy other men every so often - and it doesn't make them any less macho, not that they want to conform to such a tightly-regulated social structure as machismo apparently is. (I don't speak from experience but from conversations I've had with males about their relationship with machismo.)

This has ended up being a longer post than I intended. In a way the Stephen K Amos thing turned out to be a rather good starting-point for something I'd quite like to see change in my lifetime, the idea that there should be any kind of norms for men or women, gay or straight people, or any race at all. Most people, even those who aren't racist or homophobic (sometimes especially them) seem to believe that men and women ought to be fundamentally different, and do behave differently and therefore ought to. I'm not disputing that men and women often behave differently and that generalisations can be drawn. But for every rule there are thousands of unremarked exceptions, and we need to realise that statistics are meaningless. Just because something is more common does not mean the less common people can be ignored. And the fact that a norm is does not mean it ought to be. Look at racism. Look at homophobia. Look at sexual inequality. The 20th century has seen spectacular revolutions in patterns of thought in these three areas. I believe the 21st century can push further, into an era where we are not 'men and women', we are simply 'people'.

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