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Born This Way (whatever way that is)

So Mum and I are in the middle of dinner tonight and the phone rings. We ignore, we’re eating-and Merlin is on, and nothing interrupts my weekly ogling of Arthur’s Knights (Sunday dinners are a classy affair in our house I grant you). Five minutes later it rings again. Again ignore (hello? Piri piri chicken and hot Knights) Five minutes later again. Mum relents, it must be important. It’s my Aunt (father’s sister) oh it must be, surely someone must have died or at the very least be seriously injured, or arrested (the latter is actually more likely)

None of the above. The shocking, important news needed at 6pm on a Sunday night is that the Aunt has found out someone in the family is Gay. With a capitol Gay. This therefore warrants ringing around  everyone in  her phone book to share the news. 

I don’t know who the boy in question is other than a vague awareness that I think he’s a second cousin. If we knew each other I’d care in the sense of wanting to see if he was ok, if there was anything I could do to help (like cutting off certain people’s phone lines for example).  But as it is I really don’t care the most interesting part of the story to me was he’d qualified as a hairdresser therefore may be able to sort mine out at some point.
I cannot for the life of me fathom the need to ring around an extended family who you speak to only occasionally to impart this ‘news’ and while there was nothing overtly offensive in the conversation (well the edited highlights I was given) the fact it exists at all is offensive. It’s offensive to me, to my Mum and to the person in question. Nobody rings around to announce someone is straight, why should this be any different. That and the fact that she couldn’t actually bring herself to say the word ‘Gay’.

My family ladies and gentleman, and this quite frankly is the mild polite face.  I know you can’t choose your family but you can wonder how some freak of DNA means you’re linked to them for life. My mother for her part remained neutral in the conversation then when she hung up announced that when I finish my PhD she’s sending them all a copy. And for that I applauded her.  
It seems a minor thing, ringing around to gossip, but it’s a slippery slope isn’t it. It’s easy to let these things slide to not comment when someone makes a mildly offensive comment or joke. But then it becomes harder and harder to step in. 

This comes alongside another incident last week when while singing with my choir I found myself singing to my father’s best friend’s wife. I found myself declaring in Savage Garden’s ‘Affirmation’ : ‘I believe you can’t control or choose your sexuality’ And then in Lady Gaga’s ‘Born this Way’ that I was, well ‘Born this way’. I was terrified, quite irrationally, there were 30 other ladies declaring the same thing and I’m not even sure that audience quite grasped the message. But it’s that feeling the feeling that you have a deep dark secret that people can read all over your face, or down the phone line as they out other people. 

Because it’s not even actually about just being straight, or gay or Bi. In reality it’s about being in my case 27 years old and single. I must therefore either be gay and hiding it from everyone, or a freak.  Either option is not acceptable to these people, this amorphous group who telephone around and whisper in corners about people’s lives.   I’ve addressed it here before but just to clarity my only relationship in the near future looks to be with my PhD, but I also don’t have a gender of preference but both genders prefer not to date me.  And from my point of view it’s all fine, I’m happy. 

But that’s not the point; maybe one day I will be walking around town with a girl on my arm (should anyone be foolish or desperate enough) And what then? The phones start ringing in the hope they’ll embarrass my mother into disowning me? That people will KNOW (all in capitols, obviously). Well what people? My friends? If that changes them, then they’re not my friends. My family? Well see above. My work colleagues? My students?  I’m doing a PhD in AIDS and gay men, they’ve already conjectured and gossiped to their hearts content; some concrete evidence would be lovely. 

And me? Well if I was ever the subject of such a phone call then well, I’d pick up the phone and have a few choice words back. Because I’m not 18 years old I’m older wiser and stronger and nobody is going to intimidate me any longer.

As cheesy as it sounds, but I’ve been performing it all week, I take on Lady Gaga’s lyrics here:
‘I'm beautiful in my way
'Cause God makes no mistakes
I'm on the right track, baby
I was born this way’


  1. No probs from this side of the family Em - love and support you whatever.xx


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