16 October 2006

Of closets and cabinets

When reading reports yesterday that Ruth Kelly is dragging her comfortably shod heels over the new gay rights legislation I was again agog at the woman. She really is a most fascinating creature.

It’s much like when I was a kid and my mother, who used to drive around the countryside nursing old people, took me to work with her. One patient had a terrible ulcerated leg. I was left in the living room with the ancient cat but I could see the leg through the crack in the door just on the other side of the hallway. If I shut my eyes and think hard enough I can see it now: all wet and red raw in the middle, yellow crusted around the edge and surrounded by blackening skin. It stretched almost the length of the woman’s calf and was being packed with gauze and sudocrem. I should have looked away but I couldn’t, I had nightmares about it. It was utterly repellent and yet totally fascinating. Like our Mrs Kelly.

When she was made Education Secretary there was great excitement in my house. I didn’t know she was a religious fundamentalist then, I’d only seen her picture in the paper and it had sent my gaydar pinging off the scale. I burst through the front door. ‘They’ve done it,’ I cheered. ‘They put a big old out-lesbian in the Cabinet.’

Of course, they hadn’t and I’m sure I don’t need to tell you what we’ve ended up with. But what fascinates me, like an ulcerated leg, is this:

If she actually is a committed and certifiable Catholic cult member, if she really does hold ultra-catholic views on homosexuality and abortion, and if she genuinely is a woman riddled with all that bigotry and intolerance then what on earth is she doing? I don’t mean how can she, in all conscience, be the cabinet minister with the equalities brief, although it’s a very good point. I mean: Why does she present as a lesbian.

It’s the sensible shoes, shipping forecast, house full of cats type lesbian. The one with the standing order for the donkey sanctuary and the cupboard full of herbal teas. The one you don’t see around a lot anymore. Which is a shame; I liked her. But even our Ruth has pegged her as a dying breed and is moving on; having done the Wrong Shade of Lipstick Phase she is doing the Growing Long Hair Phase. The stuff of (a now tattered) text book, next she’ll be adopting a more androgynous look to go with her new patent brogues.

A friend of mine, who is now old and wise, spent many years as a fervently practising catholic even though he knew he was gay; he was having a hard time dealing with it. He converted when he was at university and said that it was great to find a place where everyone and everything around you validated your self loathing. As though he was a bulimic being told that not only is it acceptable to binge and vomit, but everyone else should be encouraged to do it as well. He also said that his self esteem plummented to such a depth that he had to turn the fear and hatred outwards on to other people just get by.

He’s much better now, he has self esteem and self respect and doesn’t need to burden himself with guilt and plead for forgiveness every five minutes. So, there is always hope.

Whilst on the subject; I was flicking through some old book yesterday and was reminded that we have an old law in this country that prevents any Catholic from becoming Prime Minister. Really I said to myself, but I thought the Blairs where Catho….

No, no. You’re right. It’s all far too obvious.


Peter said...

Lovely take on a vanishing breed. My bingo is full of lesbians - it's a place of safety, and a mostly female environment. All types, from young androgynous (how Bowie-esque!) to middle-aged-elderly and frumpy. Some wear it with Pride, some you don't ask. Two went to Vegas for a "gay wedding", ages before the civil partnerships came here.

When I were a lad growing up in a country village, there were two women lived in a farmhouse on the outskirts. (Outskirts!). My mother would describe them as "Bohemian", but she always mispronounced it as bohemium, which was lovely, looking back.

Froosh Bamboo said...

From now on I'm going to describe myself as Bohemium. My Dad once told someone I was 'very modern'. He said it was great pride as well.

mike said...

Really enjoyed this post - especially paragraph 7 - very well put.

Froosh Bamboo said...

Thanks for the feedback, Mike. Hope your busy week is going well.

(sorry for the delay in commenting on your comment)