WHY IT’S GOOD TO BE GAY…………………..
“Jump in Olivia, let me fasten you in.” I clicked the seatbelt across her, adjusted the booster seat and checked little Annie’s harness in her car seat. Safety for my two granddaughters, Olivia, a big girl at five and Annie two years, was paramount on our trips out.
“Nanny, can we open our nik-naks now I’m hungry?”
I looked at Olivia’s cute smile and did what any self respecting Nanny would do. I relented and handed them both their packets of nik-naks (crisps) that in an ideal world, were supposed to be for after Messy Play at the local church.
“Fank you Nanny” piped up Annie as the first handful disappeared from view into her mouth leaving a smear of orange flavouring across her chin.
I knew there wouldn’t be another word spoken by Annie until she had finished her packet, but Olivia, being a little chatterbox, had the fabulous ability to eat and speak at the same time. She also had the added talent of being able to spit various chewed contents of her mouth onto the back of my leather passenger seat. Words beginning with ‘P’ or ‘S’ were the ones I dreaded the most as they gave a particularly spectacular spray across the interior. I made a mental note to wipe it down after our little jaunt lest it should harden and remain there for all eternity – or at least until I decided to sell the car and give it its first clean since the initial purchase.
Listening to the rustle of the crisp packets in stereo I wound down my window to let in a little fresh air and to clear the odour of added cheese & onion flavouring and dollops of E621, better known as monosodium glutamate.
“Nanny I’m a Christian because I’m going to church aren’t I?” Olivia mumbled whilst spraying crumbs down her dress.
I thought about this for a moment wondering if she was old enough to understand the concept of Christianity. Deciding it was perhaps too deep for her, I opted for a more child-friendly explanation. “Well, it takes a lot more than just going to church Livvy, the most important thing is to be kind with your heart, think kind things and do kind things for other people.”
“Mmmmm I see….” She paused to cram another handful of crisps into her mouth before continuing with a cough and a fair splattering of chewed potato onto the seat in front of her. “…..so you should forgive people and love them all the time then. They’re nice things to do aren’t they Nanny?”
I smiled as I looked at her face in my rear view mirror. I loved the innocence of a child not yet corrupted by the realities and cruelties of everyday life. “Yes, that’s right Livvy, we should always be kind to people and they will be kind back.” I mentally crossed my fingers, hoping my simplistic reply would suffice.
She sighed loudly, which was then followed by an unusual ten second silence from the backseat.
I waited with baited breath for another profound statement of Godliness.
“I really don’t like puffs though……”
I almost choked on the segment of Terry’s Chocolate Orange I’d just popped into my mouth. Slowing down to approach the looming junction, I changed gear and managed another quick glance at Olivia in the rear view mirror. She was happily staring out of the side window.
Oh my goodness, how on earth was I going to deal with this, to explain to her that it was not only something she shouldn’t be saying, it was most definitely not something she should be feeling or thinking. I mean, come on, what would you do? Ignore it, pretend she hadn’t said it. Was this even something that Nannies should deal with?
I answered my own question. Yes, this was exactly what Nannies were made for – sandwiched in between the theme tune from Frozen, Ben & Holly and an episode of Mr Tumble. Wasn’t it?
I decided to broach the subject with tact, diplomacy and care.
“Gosh Olivia, we don’t say that do we? We have to love everyone sweetheart, even if they are different.”
I rambled on and on, giving all sorts of reasons as to why people can be different, religion, colour of their skin, their hair, nationality, what food they liked to eat. I decided against a direct approach on sexuality, thinking maybe this was something mummy and daddy should deal with, and knowing my fabulous family background, where the party game of ‘spot the heterosexual’ would be enthusiastically indulged in after several Gin & Tonics, I had a feeling it would have to be discussed sooner rather than later.
“……so you see Livvy, we should love everything and everyone shouldn’t we…….?”
There followed another ten second silence.
Ten seconds in which I had the time to seriously doubt my developing Nanny skills and suffer horrendous visions of little mouths uttering socially inappropriate one-liners to the gathered guests at our next party like a mini Keith Lemon.
Olivia exhaled a rather long sigh for such a little girl. “Yes, I know Nanny but they do give me dreadful mouth ulcers…..”
Flummoxed at her reply, I pulled up outside the church, switched off the engine and turned to see her sitting with a bemused look on her face brandishing…….
…………. a rather large orange Cheesy Puff pinched between her fingers that she had sneakily purloined from Annie’s crisp packet!
It is quite frightening isn’t it, to be so heightened by the fear of being labelled prejudiced, either through homophobia, religious intolerance, racism or disability indifference, that a simple word like ‘puff‘ fills you with immediate horror, until you realise that it is just a childish term for a brand of crisp.
This little incident with Olivia, although providing me with a smile and hopefully you with a giggle, sharply reminded me that ‘puff‘ was also a derogatory term that people I love dearly had to endure on a daily basis, along with other, quite vile, cruel chants, aspersions and demeaning labels.
We have come a long way in the fight for acceptance on who we love, who we worship, where we find our roots and how we cope from day to day with disability, but there is so much work still to be done.
Why is it still so hard for people to understand that love comes in many forms? Why is it still so unacceptable for some to appreciate that the love between two men or two women is no less wonderful and precious than the love between a man and a woman?
I introduce my family as just that – my family. My wonderful, happy family, which just so happens to have a high percentage of gays dancing around their handbags whilst laughing at the straight members of the clan.
I do not feel it necessary to explain their sexual orientation, whether they be heterosexual, homosexual or lesbian. That type of title does not make them any less of a person or any more of a man or woman. They are who they are; kind, warm, and caring. They work hard and have fun, in fact they have the most amazing sense of humour and sometimes are the first to poke fun at themselves in every day situations, as evidenced by the above paragraph that has the words ‘gay’ and ‘handbags’ in one sentence.
They also have a huge capacity to love and be loved and to make their own choices of who they share that love with.
They have never asked for the approval of those who disparage them for their sexual choices, but then again, neither have they asked to be treated cruelly because of it.
This blog post is important to me because I had a friend. A good friend actually, who although I didn’t see very often, still kept in touch via Facebook.
The operative word here is had.
I was horrified this week to suddenly realise that after all these years I didn’t really know this person at all. Even though he was fully aware of my family and my feelings, he chose to make appalling homophobic comments on a Facebook post. I was heartbroken and felt betrayed by him. He was unapologetic. He could see nothing wrong in voicing his opinions, it was apparently his ‘right’.
After very little deliberation, I chose to invoke my ‘right’.
I deleted him.
I sat quietly, watching the now blank spot where his profile picture had been, sad that I had clearly made a poor choice in a friend. As I shut down my laptop, I nostalgically remembered one Christmas more than thirty years ago. The year my cousin came out.
She chose to reveal this important piece of information just as the turkey had been cleared away and the Rum Pudding and Black Forest Gateau were being served. Great Grandma Pemberton, a very respectful 98 years old was presiding at the head of the table, wine had flowed copiously, which probably served to give Geraldine a little bit of Dutch courage as she wobbled to her feet, glass in hand.
“I’ve got something to tell you all, it’s very important…..”
A hush fell over the fourteen of us as we expectantly waited for her to continue.
“……..it’s just that……….well, err……….I’M GAY!”
Amid clacking of false teeth, slurping of port by Great Aunt Phyllis, the clattering of dropped dessert spoons and very obvious gasps, Great Grandma Pemberton raised one eyebrow, lifted her glass in toast and replied;
“That’s nice dear, we should all be very happy and very gay – after all it is Christmas!”
I couldn’t help but smile – Geraldine couldn’t help but be disappointed.
There is no person, no law or no God that should dictate who we choose to love, there is no gender, no colour, no religion or class that should influence our future together as human beings and how we celebrate our love.
Please remember how important it is to show love, respect and kindness to each other regardless of our differences, because it is not the differences that divide us, it is our inability to accept, nurture, cherish and celebrate them.
(c) 2015 Gina Kirkham