The gay marriage debate rumbles on. And it really is rumbling, like a tummy which refuses to be sated no mater how much junk you feed it. It’s becoming tiresome to watch, whichever side you’re on. Everyone seems to be making the same points over and over again, like a long line of toy monkeys banging their miniature crash cymbals while an air raid siren whirrs its death rattle in the background. The ‘church’ thinks Thing A, pro-gay marriage campaigners think Thing Z, and there’s a whole load of other soapboxes to stand upon in the letters in between. The stupid thing is that it is all drearily inevitable that the legislation will go through, and still be argued about once it has. A fox hunting de nos jours, but with wedding cake, and an actual advantage for humans.
Occasionally, however, someone says something that rises above the constant din of discontent — a sharper, shriller tone cuts through the migraine-inducing murmur and demands attention. Sometimes it’s a bishop banging on about the sanctity of the union between a man and a woman and sometimes it’s a spoiled Hollywood actor offering half-baked opinions on gay parenting. But this week it’s an MP who’s tapping his virtual microphone and squeaking “Is this thing on?” Step forward David Davies, Tory MP for Monmouth.
David ‘Double Dave’ Davies has a lot of strong opinions and he’s not afraid to share them — one of his lifelong ambitions seems to have been to make sure his face ended up wrapped around a battered haddock and chips — and in between his ranting-by-numbers about gay marriage and sex education in schools and all that other stuff we’ve read time and time again, comes a statement which is actually worthy of attention. Take it away, Big D, talking to the BBC: “I think most people are very tolerant and have no problem at all if people are gay but, and I hate to say this in a way because I expect it’s going to cause controversy, but I think most parents would prefer their children not to be gay, knowing most parents want grandchildren if nothing else.”
Ignoring for the moment David’s protestations that he would really rather not cause any controversy thank you very much and how naughty of us it is to pick up on that wholly innocent thing he just said, let’s take a closer look at what he’s actually saying. David thinks that most parents would prefer not to have a gay child. And you know what? I think he’s right. But not for the boring reason he trundles out — the mythical lure of having loads of toddlers who are vaguely connected to you coming over and wrecking your house every Saturday afternoon.
While there have been protests that Davies’s comments are completely without foundation, isn’t it entirely possible that there are many parents out there who are completely unprejudiced, but would rather not have a gay child because, let’s face it, growing up gay is still a nightmare for most.
When you have a child, I’m told that you love it unconditionally, and all you want for it is the best life free from fear or worry or pain. Understandable, then, not to wish your child the hell of being spat at on the school bus every day, or mocked in the classroom, with teachers either oblivious or sympathetic but ultimately powerless to stop it. Stories of homophobia-motivated physical attacks are still in the news; gay hate crimes are a fact of life even in the most liberated of countries. What kind of parent would want that hanging over a child’s head? Add to that the perception that gay relationships aren’t the same as heterosexual ones, that they aren’t as serious or committed and thus don’t deserve the same status as straight couples. No parent would want their child to be a second-class citizen, right?
For straight people who don’t know or understand gay people, it can be perplexing and frightening. AIDS and HIV, despite a decent PR job over the last decade or two to change perceptions, are still seen as a gay problem. As valiant an effort as the ‘It Gets Better’ campaign has made, gay teenagers still kill themselves because of bullying. The uncomfortable obsession gay society has with stereotypes and being misrepresented means that it’s harder than ever to ‘fit in’ without being put down for not conforming to the increasingly strict, puzzling and ever-changing, invisible ‘rules’ about how not to be gay. Sensationalist stories and the people who love them helpfully blur the lines between homosexuality and paedophilia as yet another once-loved TV star is posthumously thrown to the wolves. And two girls kissing on a soap opera is just as titillating now as it was the first time Anna Friel applied her Lipsyl in anticipation.
In short, being gay in 2012 can be just as confusing, upsetting and horrifying as it was in the 1950s. It’s entirely understandable that no parent would wish such a life on their offspring.
It’s imperative, then, that we look at how we can change perceptions of gay people and reduce this innate fear of the homosexual ‘way of life’. How do we show parents that it’s OK, that their children have every opportunity available to them whether they’re gay or not?
How about we start with not letting politicians, religious figures and social commentators badmouth gay people and, now stay with me here, maybe we should get that gay marriage thing over with and introduce it as soon as possible? Then every parent will get what they really, really want — the opportunity to cry at, not to mention grumble about the cost of, their child’s wedding.