Coming Out – Sadly the Fear Goes On
The recent success of the International Coming Out day held at the Northampton Museum and Art Gallery on the 11th October has raised a number of really important issues.
Firstly of course it has put firmly into context just how out of touch the homophobic MP’s who voted against the legislation that allows for same-sex marriages are. (As I discussed in my blog Threatens Marriage – Oh No It Doesn’t Feb. 2013).
I wonder how many of the 140 Conservative MP’s who voted against the bill attended the Coming Out event held in their constituencies or did they stand by their homophobic views and stay away, perhaps holding an alternative “Staying in Day”.
After all it isn’t that they object to people being homosexual but simply that they believe gay people can’t be trusted to be around ‘normal people’ and certainly cannot be allowed to engage in an open relationship.
Of course when challenged they trot out the age-old excuse which is invariably nothing more than a modification of “I’m not ****, I know someone who is ****”.
For the ‘****’ substitute,
homophobic – gay,
misogynistic – a woman,
racist – black etc., etc.
There is no doubt that over the past 20 years things have improved but it remains a problem in some areas and no more so than those who are engaged or have ambitions to progress up the greasy pole of politics.
Why is that?
In the 21st century, do the public really care whether their representative is homosexual or heterosexual, or in fact anything other than a decent human being who puts service to their constituents first?
It is a sad indictment that there remains a fear and stigma amongst many who want to engage in politics who are prevented from getting involved because of the prevailing underlying and entrenched homophobia that exists.
I can sympathise with those who feel that they have to hide their true selves and sexuality from their parents but admit that I don’t understand it because the vast majority of parents will always love my kids.
Even if on occasions they don’t always agree with or even like them.
What I find sad is that in the political world there are people who because of their fear of homophobia are sentenced to hiding their true selves and are denied the opportunity of finding and being open with someone they love.
The psychological impact must be enourmous and would anyone be surprised if when they are put under pressure and their plans fail that without the support and the ‘safety valve’ of someone who really cares about them their judgement is impaired or health suffers.
Matthew Toresen, Chair of the Northampton LGBT group FAN summed it up perfectly when he said,
“We appreciate that coming out is a personal choice and unfortunately it’s still not always safe to do so. For me personally, coming out was the best thing I ever did. The relief of finally being honest with yourself and others about your feelings is life changing.”
and of course he is right, it is a personal choice, but the impact on the individual who has ambitions in politics appears to be hit by a ‘double whammy’ of bigotry.
Firstly they have to face a life in the public eye never knowing whether they will be ‘outed’. (What an awful expression) with others usually homophobes casting suspicion on why are they always on their own?
The problem this creates is that as rumours and speculation spreads, (as it inevitably does), the population, and by that I mean the electorate, start to question that if someone cannot be honest to themselves about who they really are then can they be trusted in anything else they do or say?
It is a conundrum that I for one don’t have a solution too.
What I do believe is that people should be judged on what they say and what they do rather than who they are.
In politics as in the rest of life tolerance and understanding are essential components of being a decent person.
Politicians themselves however also have to understand that they are not a ‘race’ apart from the rest of the population.
How many times have we heard politicians who have insulted, humiliated, lied about or in other ways personally abused other politicians make the excuse for their actions by saying
“It’s all part of the politics”
as though it all part of an act and they aren’t really like that.
It is of course utter nonsense.
Actors, act, and in doing so play fictional roles within the context of a script which is not meant to be believed as real life.
Politics in contract is not a script played out before an audience but reality, dealing with issues that impact on people’s lives so the “it’s only politics” is simply crap and in reality those who indulge in insults and abuse are revealing their true nature and character.
What must be distressing for those involved in politics who are scared to ‘come out’ can be summed up by a conversation I had with a former colleague who had been the subject of “speculation” much of it hurtful to him and his family.
To put it bluntly I asked him if he was gay and was he aware of what was being said and how did he want to deal with it.
It turned out that his family knew and their support was what he relied on but he didn’t want it to be “officially public” because he was nervous of how his political colleagues would react especially those who had been very vocal in the attitudes to gay men.
It was sad but I respected then as I do now the position in which he finds himself.
Two questions come to mind however,
Why are some so intolerant?
Am I the only one who is suspicious of why those who are vocally anti-gay are they so homophobic?