Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Sexuality Sells, And We're All Buying

This morning's Victoria Derbyshire Show on the BBC made quite a big deal over the fact that a British Olympic hopeful had decided to come out to the nation as gay. Such a big deal in fact, that they teased the story on social media, but kept the name of the athlete concerned as an "exclusive" for the show itself.

It turns out that athlete is race walker Tom Bosworth. No, me neither. The fact that a major broadcaster still considered his sexuality a matter of such utmost importance that it needed to not only be revealed to the nation live during the show, but trailed in advance just to whet our salacious appetites raises a couple of questions.

Firstly, is it news? Well, no. Not in the wider definition of the word as something of interest going on in the world that we need to know about. It's probably news to Tom's family, his training partners, teammates and friends - assuming many of them didn't already know - but not particularly news to the rest of us. I suspect the reaction of the nation will have been one of "meh" and get on with your day.

Secondly, why does a major media outlet consider it to be news, if most of us know that it isn't? Well you would have to ask the producers of the show that. Without wishing to answer on their behalf, I suspect they've looked at what seems to be work for daytime TV formats and decided that a story about someone's little sexual secret fits right in with the Jeremy Kyle/Loose Women style that  ITV peddle.

In short, they are using Tom Bosworth's willingness to reveal his sexuality to a widely disinterested nation for a bit of cheap, titillating television. Are we still really at that stage of our social development as a culture? Did Back to the Future just happen and all of a sudden we're in the 1970s again?

"But things like this help other gay people to find the confidence to speak out".

Do they really? Does the fact an athlete who nobody outside those with an interest in race walking has ever heard of has come out really provide that much comfort and security to a young person that they can feel safe about revealing their own sexuality?

I don't think it does. This isn't an age where being gay or lesbian (or anywhere between) is still punishable by prison or something that needs to be kept hidden away in a metaphorical closet. There are high profile, openly gay figures in sport, entertainment and politics who are showing that being honest about your sexuality is no handicap to having a fulfilling and successful life.

More damaging is the approach taken by the media that being anything other than heterosexual is something still to be considered surprising or news-worthy. That doesn't provide any kind of comfort or solace to anyone on the verge of coming out, whether they are in public life or not. It portrays non-heterosexual love as something so out of the ordinary or unusual that a major broadcaster has to devote time to discussing it.

In short the attitude of the media towards gay, lesbian and bisexual people in public life needs to change. It informs and supports prejudice, and creates an atmosphere which prevents people being who they really are. It contributes to potential mental health issues caused by the fear of revealing your sexuality. Enough is, as the song says, enough.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

For National Poetry Day

Writing poems about poets
It really is quite hard
That's why it's sometimes easier
To call Shakespeare "The Bard"

Writing poems about poets
The tantrums and commotion
When you can't think of anything
For Andrew bloody Motion

Writing poems about poets
You're a hero or a villain
Depends on whether you leave out
That nice Ian McMillan

Writing poems about poets
To stick up on your fridge
Even ones with quite long names
Like Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Writing poems about poets
One of my pet hates
Is when you discover
That Keats doesn't rhyme with Yeats

Writing poems about poets
The travails and the despairs
Have finally convinced me
That I'll never be Pam Ayres

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

The Binary Life

It must be really nice, to live a binary life
Where everything is one thing or another
You're either left or right, either black or white
No choices to confuse, confound or smother

Run with the hounds or with the foxes, put it all in boxes
Pick a side and never cross the floor
Be messy or be neat, never the twain shall meet
Dig in those heels and stand up proud and sure

Your fact is never fiction, no scope for contradiction
All counter arguments are batted back
If you're short of a retort, as a last resort
There's always the ad hominem attack

To back up your opinions, summon all your minions
By starting all your tweets with a full stop
Make clear your intentions, by clogging up their mentions
Convince yourself that you've come out on top

So listen trolling hordes, you warriors with keyboards
From the chalice of my wisdom take a sup
Don't be a dickhead for your cause, it won't get you applause
Just told to do one, and shut the fuck right up.