Saturday, 7 January 2012

Why we need George Michael speaking out about gay issues

This is the second part in a series about fighting homophobia. The first part is here

It takes a village. Raising a kid and teaching them about life, that is. And one of the things we need to teach our kids is that being different is just fine!

There's a school of thought in the gay community that only 'safe' and squeaky-clean men and women should speak out about gay issues or become gay activists. George Michael would be the first to admit that his image is anything but clean. A very public outing, problems with drugs, a stint in prison, the facts speak for themselves. So George needn't apply. But I don't agree: we need everyone! Isn't that what equality & diversity is all about anyway?

There's a place for all of us

I'm of the opinion that it takes a (gay) village to teach kids about gay issues! I've been involved with our national LGBT organisation, COC, teaching high school kids about diversity and gay rights.
Every time one of those kids tells me "you're OK for a lesbian, at least you don't look too butch" I sigh deeply (it's not even true, I'm pretty butch!). And I ask the kids to look around their classroom, really look at each other and notice how alike and yet different they all are. There are  very feminine straight women and butch straight women. Just as there are lipstick lesbians and butch lesbians. And that is just as it should be! There should be room for everyone.

In the same vein there are shy straight people, brazen straight people, squeaky-clean straight people and yes, there are also straight people with messy lives. It's no different for us gay people, we are a diverse bunch and we should not be ashamed to show that to the world. If there's any oppressing to be done, I'd rather we didn't do it to ourselves! So George Michael with his rather complicated past is more than welcome to speak his mind about all things gay.

Besides if you want to let unhappy gay kids know it's OK to be gay, that this time of hating yourself because of your sexuality will pass, who better to ask than George Michael. His journey from unhappy and closeted star to out-and-proud gay icon has been very well documented after all.

Which is was why I was so proud of George when he went on a twitter rant about the gay storyline in East Enders a couple of months ago. I was very happy because he made some excellent points. To wit: teenagers should have positive gay images on the TV to look up to, showing them that it is possible to be happy and safe as a gay man or woman. Positive story lines in one of the popular UK soaps would certainly help a lot. And as George tweeted: "life (in London) is a wonderful thing for so many gay and lesbian people these days". Coming from someone who lived through times when being gay in the UK was anything but wonderful - remember the horror and abomination that was Clause 28 - this  means a lot.

On-line or off-line
We all know George Michael can write so well, and he's an absolute dream to interview because he's so open and honest. And let's not forget he has a tendency to treat an interview with any interviewer worth this salt like a session with his therapist, which makes for a very interesting conversation!
Which is why I hope he will in time find a way to get his views on gay issues across in such a way that the story is about his views, rather than George himself. Less of those 'George Michael goes on expletive-filled twitter rant' headlines and more 'George Michael shares his insight on how life has changed for gay people in the UK over the last 30 years'.

But for now it seems George has far too much fun getting things off his chest on twitter to do the sensible thing, bless him. I guess after all those years of (self-imposed) silence it's good to shout out loud. Well, whatever the medium I for one am glad to hear his voice - loud (heh!) and clear. A loud twitter voice is much better than no voice at all. Speak up and speak out George! The world needs you.

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