Wednesday, 18 January 2012

The closet homophobe

Tiananmen - Gay Pride style
I suppose we're all watching in trepidation what's happening in the USA at the moment - with the Republican nominations under way. Santorum scares me particularly but it did occur to me that perhaps, if the Republicans choose a genuinely insane candidate, perhaps the majority of (I fully believe) sane Americans (especially the Black and the Hispanic) will come out on polling day and tell them where to get off. That would leave us with Obama again, who is, in my opinion, probably unfairly vilified, but that's another post altogether.
What particularly spurs me to write today is the content of some of the more extreme Republicans' oratory and why the heck it seems so damned attractive to so many people - I'm thinking of course of their preoccupation with all things sexual - homosexuality and abortion most obviously, but also, if Santorum is to be taken notice of, contraception and sex outside marriage too.
Of course it's hardly a US speciality - you don't have to look very far to find atrocities against gay men in Africa and the Caribbean, and of course it's not just Christianity - fundamentalist Islam is notorious for its obsession with women's sexuality. Go back in history and there's hardly any nation that hasn't considered it right and proper to imprison, torture and kill people for their sexuality. Weird.
My reason for being spurred to write is that I just simply don't get it. I don't know why so many people throughout history and throughout the world feel this way about sex. Obviously I'm not saying that everyone, or even the majority of US Americans, Jamaicans or Arabs feels this way. My question is more, how do the (few?) people who do feel this way get to be so powerful?

I remember in my own up-bringing how crucial a person's sexuality was among my adult (especially male) relatives. They were routinely horrified to see long-haired young men on the telly ('You can't tell if it's a girl or a boy'.) They were terrified of being caught out ogling a boy by mistake. There were all sorts of petty rules and cues you had to abide by if you didn't want to be held up to ridicule. Transgression threw up all sorts of odd reactions. I had a lot of curly hair back then - there was just nothing we could do about it, and I wasn't interested in cars or football so they didn't know what to make of me. For my part I pretty actively decided not to be like them very early on and all sorts of odd quips and names resulted. They sang "Funny little fella, wears his sister's clothes. Don't know what to call him but we think he's one of those." There were all sorts of ways I didn't fit in but I think this possibility that I might be 'one of those' was high among them. The odd thing is that for as long as I can remember I've always, really really liked girls. Back then I liked everything about them - how they talked, how they dressed and moved, and, had I had a sister I have no doubt I would have tried her clothes on. Certainly by the time I was eight (in Mr Gilbert's class) I fantasised about them constantly - Debbie, Melanie, Tracy and Gemma - although had I got one in bed I wouldn't have had a clue what to do with her. It was as much about sharing the bed as anything, kissing and cuddling, but it was still profoundly erotic. Men by comparison were hairy and sweaty, ungainly and crude. Their genitalia were ugly and smelly too and their conversation seemed hard and unforgiving. No way would I ever make myself naked and vulnerable if there were men about. I still can't use a urinal.
I never have had the confidence to be a transvestite but as an adolescent I cultivated a certain femininity of demeanour and, in common with much of what was going on at the time (this was the '80s) I could get away with an understated effeminacy that actually served me well a couple of times getting to know girls. Unfortunately I also fell into the trap of becoming 'just friends' when that was not what I wanted at all. Still, I liked being out with the girls because I preferred their conversation, and, hey, being with them as a friend was better than nothing, and many of them were genuine friends too - the ones I didn't fancy mainly, but as time went on, even the ones I had fancied came to seem quite asexual. I can't say it ever got in the way of my having proper girlfriends anyway.
Gay men also fell for me and I didn't want to be rude so I let them buy me drinks when I worked in a bar, or give me a lift home when I worked as a nursing auxilliary. I liked the attention. As a student at Brighton Poly it was almost obligatory to regard yourself as to some extent bisexual. I once told a guy who fancied me that I didn’t want to sleep with him because I wasn’t ready to come out yet, rather than tell him the truth, which was that I wasn’t gay. My brother (a true Brightonian, you may remember) seems to think he should not be so blinkered - he sees it as a sort of bigotry I think. He seems to think that he should be able, in theory, to fancy a bloke, even though I don't know that he ever has.
Even today, when I've given up on any pretence at being at all pretty, my wife has been prone to ask (only half joking) if I'm sure I'm not gay, given that I cry easily and like flowers and cooking and am not entirely averse to musicals (I get that from my dad), but of course that's just how we are today, us men, or some of us at least - we're not so worried about conforming to those old roles and we've perhaps come to wonder what all the fuss was. Men who seem especially anxious to prove their masculinity come to seem more suspect than the more sensitive among us. Certainly the kids at the local secondary school, from what I can gather (and they're pretty open about it) seem very unconcerned about how people choose to dress or who does what to whom and I find that very hopeful for the future.

So what is all this about sexuality among the Republicans and the Taliban and so forth? What exactly is it that bothers them so much? Some have suggested that they are in fact themselves repressed homosexuals but that seems too easy. Maybe some are, but the problem seems to be about sex generally, about women and their role in society, and the family, and about going out and enjoying yourself without having really done anything to deserve it.
Just saying 'The Bible/Koran/Pope/Ayatollah says so' also seems like not enough. I don't hear of anyone getting stoned for lending money or being imprisoned for covetousness. Unfortunately, it's in the nature of 'belief'* that believers reserve the right to insist that whatever they feel strongly about is The Truth, irrespective of arguments or evidence to the contrary. Usually this is just harmless fun but often it is a justification for oppression and war. If you believe that something is wrong, and wrong enough to justify making someone's life a misery for, then there's nothing anyone can say to contradict you. If you have an old book or a venerable leader to back you up so much the better. Furthermore, no one who believes in the primacy of personal belief can have anything to say about it. They're entitled to their beliefs (and whatever their beliefs compel them to do. After all, to say to someone 'you have a right to believe what you like but not to act on your beliefs' is just patronising.) But as far as I'm concerned, some beliefs are just plain wrong, and bloody dangerous too, and should be challenged. Sexual intolerance is one of them because there is just no justification for it as far as I can see.
Even the faithful though seem to find the argument 'God says so' not entirely satisfactory on its own and introduce all sorts of specious factoids and rationalisations to support their position - things about public health and the breakdown of society. There are quasi-evolutionary arguments about the roles of men and women in society which are 'natural' and hence good, and there are philosophical arguments about the irreducible rightness of certain ways of life over others. Many of these arguments were discredited years ago - arguments about disease and child abuse for example and yet they still get trotted out. I can't help feeling that a lot of the problem is a simple lack of appreciation of the wealth of information and argument out there. Isolated communities without access to outside influences, due to remoteness, poverty or authoritarian teachers must have to be to blame for a lot of intolerance (Back to Iowa...) It's a lot harder to be militantly homophobic when you work and shop and hang out with all sorts of people and discover that they are not depraved monsters.

Sex (and especially promiscuity) can of course lead to disease. Sickness means time in hospital, away from work, but then do we persecute other people who engage in risky pursuits - like rock climbing, or visiting sub-Saharan Africa, or driving a motorbike? No, because sex is different. Sex is wrong. Then there's the fear of the effect on the children, but if you can't identify anything intrinsically wrong about being gay, why would you want to stop children becoming gay? Because being gay is a problem. That's all there is to it. We don't want it for our children. They might get confused (because being confused is intolerable to children) or, worse, they might get bullied. Yes - lets give in to the bullies. Let's make sure our children are 'normal' in case some scumbag takes exception. And what about the family? How will we maintain our society? So if a gay couple choose to adopt or go for IVF that would be better? No. Why not? Because it's wrong. It's just wrong and that's all there is to it. What about unwanted pregnancy? So you'd be ok with sex acts that could not possibly result in pregnancy - like oral or anal sex? No no no - now you're just being ridiculous.
By contrast the arguments about abortion should give any intelligent person pause. At some point the unborn foetus becomes a baby, and I don't think there's any good reason to think that happens, just like that, at birth. At one point it's a bunch of cells, at another point it's a tiny human. I don't know where the line is. There's a genuine argument there - but it's an argument that should include unwanted children, not just the unborn. Is it better to be born into a world that doesn't want you (or worse, hates you) or to be aborted at five, seven, or ten weeks? I honestly don't know. Anybody who believes that murder is wrong should take these questions seriously, but this is about as different to the arguments about homosexuality or any other sorts of purely recreational sex as it is possible to be.
The evolutionary arguments still seem to cling to the old idea about the hunting male taking care of his woman and her endlessly demanding sproggs as leading to the conventional monogamous heterosexual family unit, when in fact the evidence suggests we are much more like the more hedonistic chimps and bonobos - who just do it for fun, and with pretty much anyone in the latter case. As a rule of thumb, if I had to guess, I'd say if you have to prevent it by force it's probably natural. If you have to force people to comply (monogamy for example) it's probably unnatural (and making up a silly higamous-hogamous rhyme doesn't change that.) But who's to say? You can't extrapolate. Humans are just too different to other apes. We're naked and we stand upright and we have huge brains. There's just no way of telling what we are like 'naturally' by looking at our relatives. And even if there was it would tell us nothing about how we should be.

A lot of the problem for your everyday homophobe I suspect is the simple yech factor, and here I must come clean. I too am a homophobe, in the strictest sense, meaning 'having an irrational fear of homosexuality' (rather than 'a hatred of', which is what it seems to have come to mean). In common with many perfectly decent broad-minded men I've been known to blurt out, half joking 'but I'm not gay' when I do something that fits the stereotype. I am still fairly easy about how I dress and go about things, and even enjoy a little sartorial ambiguity (or I would if I wasn't so fat now) but there are limits. I feel uncomfortable waiting in a shop holding my wife's handbag, and I still wouldn't go out in her hat even if it was chucking it down. I can't go up to a bloke in a bar just to make friends because he might think I'm chatting him up. And I get uncomfortable when blokes seem particularly friendly with me, like the bloke down the Coop who always chats to me when I go in to get my lunch. I chat back but I'm aware of a part of me not wanting to lead him on. How silly is that? Maybe it's an English thing, because we're not used to strangers being friendly, we suspect their motives. Maybe it's just me, but I really doubt it.
And then there's that disgust I mentioned above about men's bodies. I accidentally came across some pictures on Flickr posted by a chap who's eager to show everyone his hairy arse and all that dangles beneath. I think I'm broad-minded enough to know by now if I was repressing anything (see? Still feeling the need to say it - 'I'm not gay') and I can honestly say that while not all women's bits are nice to look at, I can't think of any men's bits I'd rather look at, disease and deformity apart perhaps. And handling them - wooah! Shudder to think. But I'm not really trying to prove anything. I'm just saying, for whatever reason - I have these feelings. The idea of doing it with another man, is just... Ewww...
My theory then - Santorum and the Taliban's mistake, I suspect, is that they too have my silly anxiety about getting into an embarrassing social situation, and my perfectly reasonable expression of personal sexual preference (many gay men apparently feel the same way about womens' bits) but have idiotically inflated it into something absolute, universal, and God-given that any right-thinking person should go along with - that homosexuality is objectively, categorically disgusting, and an abomination. But this is a false argument. Just because I don't happen to want to do it says nothing about what other people should be allowed do. The fact that I find the idea of doing anything to another man's bottom revolting says nothing about what other men should be allowed to do to each other's bottoms. What they do in the privacy of their own homes (or even in public under certain circumstances) has nothing to do with me as long as I have the right to be elsewhere.
And I do have gay friends. I've had to get over my anxiety that they might take things the wrong way and to be prepared to politely say 'no' if it comes to it (which I doubt it will because they're not stupid) but once we all know where we stand I'm fine. I can relax. In fact it's better than fine, because, second to women, the people I get on with best are, you guessed it - gay men.

* my first and fourth meanings of the word 'belief' (see earlier posting)
1 - beliefs people have despite the fact (or indeed because of the fact) that there is no material evidence or rational explanation for them - things like God, Heaven, The Inner Eye, Karma. Such beliefs are an assertion of a personal conviction that something is so, irrespective of what anyone else says. We tend to talk of 'Believing In' such things. Having Faith is a similar sort of idea.
4 - common sense, taken-for-granted sorts of belief where we just assume things about the world because it's never occurred to us to think otherwise. This may include anything from simply 'knowing' that tables and chairs are solid and not made up mainly of empty space, that Jesus loves you and that wearing sandals with socks is just plain wrong. Mostly we're not even aware of these kinds of beliefs until someone challenges them.

14 comments:

Bryan M. White said...

I read this yesterday, and it threw me for a loop. I wasn't sure what to say. I could say that it was "brave", but calling such openness and honesty "brave" speaks to the very issue you're addressing here and the hang-ups we all have about these kind of thoughts and curiosities that are probably far more common than any of us would care to admit.

Steve Law said...

Hi Bryan - yes - it feels a bit risky, but then no one but you, me, Paul and Vincent ever seem to read this blog so I don't feel all that courageous.
I've re-jigged the last bit anyway so it doesn't read quite so much like my feelings toward gays are 'fear and disgust', which I must emphasise they are not. (God it's a mine-field isn't it.)

Vincent said...

I like your thoughtful and honest approach here, Steve. I found it a helpful step towards clarifying my own ideas on the topic of different attitudes to homosexual behaviour. (I could tell my own tales but they would not add anything to the discussion.)

I see three different levels, each with its own complexities:

(a) what goes on, i.e. billions of instances of behaviour, plus innumerable impulses which may or may not result in measurable behaviour. You have given some personal examples of the complexities involved. You and I would probably agree there are no clear-cut dividing lines in these matters.

(b) attitudes to the behaviour and the impulses. Let’s merely say that everyone disapproves of something. Everyone thinks that some other thing is not worth getting fussed about. Or in other words, opinions abound.

(c) simplified interpretations of the attitudes—simple enough to become the basis of laws. So, in the UK, we find that up to a certain date, certain homosexual acts were illegal. Today, in the same country, we find that certain acts of discrimination hostile to the interests of homosexuals are illegal. A huge swing in 30 years or so, well within the lifetimes of many people. Doubtless there has been a similar swing in the US.

My sense in these matters is that now we are more tolerant to homosexuals, we should be more tolerant to those who disapprove of their behaviour. This would be assisted by a reduction in activism on both sides.

It is not a simple case at all. In most societies there are taboos. That is to say, those societies find taboos necessary to their cohesion and safety. Examples: incest, sexual abuse, disrespect or neglect of the helpless. Christianity has for centuries been identified with the reinforcement of such taboos. There are always those who want to erode taboos, as well as others who want to reinforce them. It’s not impossible to achieve a balance and take the issues below the horizon.

Does homosexuality, when expressed physically, belong amongst those taboos? There are some strong arguments to day that it does. To the extent that it’s less visible, it is less persecuted. It’s an age-old thing! Violence against homosexuals is almost always directed against its public face, almost never against private acts (even when it was illegal). Opinion has in general swung towards the liberal end of the spectrum. The contraceptive pill became generally available around the same time that laws on homosexuality were relaxed. The problem of unwanted pregnancy was greatly reduced. In 1963 I found it suddenly easy to have casual sex as the pill gave young women a new freedom. But these two liberalising steps increased the risk of disease. Teenage pregnancy remains a problem in the UK, whilst HIV and lesser STDs plague any form of promiscuity, despite the availability of “safe sex” and medical advances. Meanwhile sexual liberalisation spills over to the unwanted arena of paedophilia, at any rate in the minds of the paedophiles themselves who have their own forms of pornography.

You say that “My reason for being spurred to write is that I just simply don't get it” – that there are those virulently opposed to homosexual expression. Fair enough, but what I don’t get is that the tolerance accorded to homosexual expression is not extended to those who disapprove of it.

I’ve been to boarding school, and by extension can imagine the situation in other all-male institutions such as prisons and the military. It seems to me that our taboos, which you have admitted sharing, are not only instinctive but beneficial. But tolerance is required on both sides too--tolerance towards those for whom being gay is a way of life, and tolerance towards those who don’t want to know about it, and would prefer it to stay hidden.

Steve Law said...

There's a lot to respond to here Vincent but to your essential point I'd have to say I strongly disagree - I don't think you can equate tolerance of homosexuality with tolerance of oppression of homosexuals, any more than you can equate tolerance of Judaism with tolerance of fascism. The former lead to individual acts that hurt no one else, the latter to violence and horror.
Calling them taboos doesn't give the bigotry any greater respectability, just another name.
There's freedom of speech of course but words are not separated from actions quite so easily.
Secondly your assertion that "Violence against homosexuals is almost always directed against its public face, almost never against private acts" is definitely false. The bigots go looking for it - believe me.
And in any case - why should they hide? We 'straights' certainly don't.

Vincent said...

No decent person tolerates violence and oppression. Let’s not waste one another’s time on the obvious.

Taboo is not the same as bigotry.

Your last sentence makes an equivalence between two things. Not everyone agrees that those two things are equivalent. My plea was for acceptance and tolerance of those who cannot see those things as equivalent.

Saying they are equivalent is to take a partisan approach, which some will label a kind of bigotry in itself. But it’s a word easily misused, and I won’t use it myself. I don’t intend to continue this discussion!

Steve Law said...

No, of course taboo is not the same as bigotry, but here the one (the anthropological term) is being used to lend bigotry respectability.

Being partisan is not bigotry either. Your argument could be used against any expression of strong opinions.

"Not everyone agrees that those two things are equivalent" and "some will label(this)a kind of bigotry in itself"
Some might - let them speak for themselves. In any case I don't, which surely is the point.

I do understand that you don't want to continue. It's been a hard one this posting - on both sides.

Steve Law said...

A friend has sent some interesting responses by email but doesn’t want to comment here. He says I can quote him though.

Firstly, I was hoping someone would say this:-
“I read your gay rant and just thought.... Bless, this guy is protesting too much!”
To which I said (jovially)
“I have to admit I had my doubts about you too” (We’ve known each other for a while now)
To which he responded, less jovially -
“Yes, but im not the one protesting am I? Nothing wrong with being thought of as 'gay', it doesn't diminish. I have loads of gay friends and I like gay music/groups, I even put up that old Quentin Crisp Video up this week, I loved his books!” and added “I think all the good you say in the first two thirds is canceled out by the embarrassingly toe curling disgust you seem to have. If I were you I'd cut that last part out, its way too much information and is frankly unworthy of you! ”
To which I responded -
“I have re-jigged that last bit (have a look - see what you think). I'm not going to cut it out because I think it's saying something important (in fact it's the main point) though I may not have said it well.
The fact remains that I do feel uncomfortable (at least initially) with homosexuals, and I do find the idea of having sex with a man revolting. That's just how it is - I'm not hiding anything. And (as I said above) a lot of gays find the idea of sex with a woman revolting.”
I’m not going to pretend I sometimes fancy blokes just to look broad-minded.

I know rationally that “there is nothing wrong with being seen as gay” and I like music and films and TV shows by and about gays as much as anyone but that doesn’t mean that I do not have these feelings and i'm sure I'm not alone. The point is to acknowledge them for what they are - silly phobias and to get over them, not to indulge them and try to get the rest of the world to follow suit. That’s all I’m saying.

Finally I want to point out that I’ve had that ‘protesting too much’ line used on me under rather less jovial circumstances. If a bloke had said it to a woman it would have been called harassment, so you’ll excuse me if I take issue with it.

Vincent said...

Nice. I could talk about my homosexual experiences, or more truthfully near-experiences, too. But I shall remain faithful to my main point: that these are things best kept private. Which applies also to the male-female kind.

Vincent (though I said I would shut up!)

Steve Law said...

And I'd be happy to keep it private (or at least, purely personal) too - if it wasn't for Santorum and his ilk

Steve Law said...

And here we have a bunch of morons in Derby distributing leaflets proclaiming death to homosexuals (and yet not, inexplicably, to usurers.)
No matter that usury could be argued to have plunged half the world into economic crisis where being gay has done terrible damage to the world by... erm...
But usury is not 'taboo' so that's ok.

Steve Law said...

A few closing thoughts.
This seems to have been a hard one on (almost) all of us, though for conflicting reasons.
One (straight) friend tells me the original posting 'comes over as anti-gay'. I'm sorry if that's the case. It was supposed to come over as anti the kinds of phobias (or perhaps 'hang-ups' is a better word) that many of us share but can't articulate, as Bryan said but which might turn into out-and-out bigotry in some, shall we say, less insightful individuals. I've lived, and studied, in Brighton long enough to know that many of us are uneasy about anything that talks about homosexuality in anything other than a totally affirmative way. We prefer to distance ourselves from any message other than 'I am totally cool with everything gay' in case we are perceived as even possibly slightly homophobic. I know 'perception is everything' in the media, in government and in marketing but I refuse to censor myself on the basis of what people might or might not understand by what I write. (Who knows what people might understand? Not me.)

Vincent - I agree this should be a matter of personal private choice, but unfortunately it isn't. Ok, gays insist on making films and photos and theatre, and going on Pride marches, which is public, but it's the fact that the homophobes hunt won't leave them alone that bothers me. For practical purposes as much as ethical I think people should be free to believe what they like, but I also reserve the right to think that they might be dangerously wrong and want to challenge those beliefs. I don't think your assertion that "No decent person tolerates violence and oppression. Let’s not waste one another’s time on the obvious" is 'obvious' at all. How can we expect people not to act on their sincerely and strongly held beliefs?

Finally, I said 'almost everyone' above because i got emails from two gay friends about the posting. It's worth quoting at length I think, the one who lives in California, who pointed out another, probably better, explanation for the fear and disgust among Republicans:
" I wouldn’t underestimate the power of simple group solidarity either. In this country I suspect a lot of the sexual piousness & religiousity among the general public has less to do with real belief or even feelings than it does with belonging. Us vs. Them. We are “southerners”, or ”conservatives”, or ”god-fearing”, and this is what our people believe in. It’s like carrying the flag. And in this country it’s precisely the most “religious” and “conservative” areas, i.e. the South and rural areas, that have the highest rates of STD’s, out-of-wedlock pregnancies, & rapes. They put up monuments to the 10 Commandments in front of their gov’t buildings and also have some of the the highest crime rates in the nation. They act one way and champion the opposite. And that may not be hypocrisy for a lot of them either, not consciously anyway. They’re just supporting their team. I think there’s a disconnect and confusion in them between the symbols and the reality. The same folk who are so passionate about the flag and the national anthem and “America” are often the same ones who don’t give a shit about the actual physical land and what’s in it. Or like this pious brouhaha over the marines pissing on the corpses. It’s alright to kill them, but apparently not to piss on them after they’re dead. Seems like a confusion in values there to me. The symbolism is more important than the life?
And if they’re aware of the contradictions they may not see it as hypocrisy, but as another sign of their virtue. “Yeah, we may be sinners, but at least WE have the decency to show some respect for what’s right. Unlike those brazen scum over there flaunting their disrespect.”"

Vincent said...

Gentleeye has been trying to post her comment here, but it kept being rejected, so she asked me to have a go!

Gentleeye said:

"Vincent, Bryan and Paul are not the only people reading this blog. Evidently.

I suspect that a lot of the discomfort around sex and sexuality is due to the ideas generated (unconsciously) by those big brains about the importance of identity, and how much identity is based upon one's sex, and one's sexuality. People who are a different sex, and/or a different sexuality, implicitly call into question the stability and 'rightness' of one's own sex, and/or sexuality - and therefore call into question one's identity. Which is pretty uncomfortable, but hard to examine when it's mostly going on unconsciously."

Steve Law said...

Sorry to hear there's been a problem with posting here Gentleeye - certainly no censorship on my part - I wasn't even aware anyone was trying. I wonder what's happening - and if anyone else is trying to get through (sounds like we're having a seance doesn't it?)
I do agree about the 'identity' thing - and it in a way unites what Vincent says about Taboo (some deep inchoate 'No' in the human psyche), Dennis's (the Californian chap I quoted above)talk of the power of group identity, and my own hang-ups. But I still don't understand why, almost above all others, this one seems so incredibly overwhelmingly powerful. It seems out of proportion.

But still I think I want to emphasise that there is a difference between observing THAT something IS the case (as we all have done in our different ways above) and asking WHY and HOW it is the case. I still don't get it.

And beyond that there is a difference between observing THAT something IS the case and asking whether it SHOULD BE the case and, if not, how to challenge it.
There are many areas of ethics where there is a judgement call - with the balancing of costs and benefits (the abortion example above for example) personal freedom vs infringements on the rights of others etc but as far as i'm concerned, this is most obviously NOT one of those areas. As far as i'm concerned there is NO cost to letting people love/have sex with who they wish, but huge personal benefits. Love and sex are not optional extras.

If anyone can point out a cost enormous enough to get anywhere near balancing the personal benefits, I'd be interested to hear it.

Steve Law said...

This conversation still jangles in my brain - what is it? - over two years on. I don't have much to add except to the point about protesting too much. First up of course it's always irritating when someone (even a good friend) tells you they know you better than you do yourself, especially when you know they're wrong. The more you disagree the more guilty you look. But also there's the implication of weakness - that I'm not mature enough to come out and admit it. It makes me look risible.

But the truth is that realising that I wanted to sleep with blokes just wouldn't have been that big a deal. My sex life has been fairly lively and at times embarrassingly public but never shameful, at least not as far as I'm concerned. Having sex with a bloke just wouldn't have troubled me much, had I fancied one, I just never did.
Actually I don't think my (immediate) family would have been much bothered either ("So that's why he can't catch a ball! It all makes sense.") Some of my uncles might have felt differently but I was so used to their disapproval it wouldn't have made much difference.

It has also occurred to me that homophobia might be partly a result of unwelcome encounters with gay men. I've had enough approaches to know that it can be a disturbing, being pursued, and it's probably the only time men find out what it's like for women to get unwanted sexual advances. Of course (my good friend) I am not saying there is anything intrinsically or universally unwanted or disturbing about homosexual advances. I suppose what I'm saying is that sometimes male sexual advances can be anything from inappropriate to menacing - gay as much as straight. Straight men have no more justification for generalising about gays than women do about men.