07 August 2007

Frightening the horses by Kenneth Zammit Tabona (Times of Malta, August 7, 2007)

I recently came across photographs of this year's Gay Pride March in Valletta. All three parties were represented by a trio of politicos - Louis Galea, Evarist Bartolo and Harry Vassallo. All in all it was merely a handful of brave people who turned up, myself not included, to demonstrate against the prevalent discriminatory social laws and, even worse, the negative attitudes that the homosexual, whether male or female, must face in everyday life; pitfalls and snares that are unimaginable to those whose genetic make-up is uncomplicatedly hetero, hurts and slights that are pies in the sky for the majority, emargination and discrimination that are caused by misunderstanding and lack of information on both sides. Nobody in their right mind would choose to be gay if he or she could have a say in the matter as it creates untold complications and traumas that render life far less of a picnic than it is already.

It was a good thing that the token MPs were there lending some officialdom to a group that represents and is attempting to address the most difficult of issues. It is about time that Malta and his wife realised that the days when we could put these social problems in a convenient closet are over as every year more and more people "come out of the closet" declaring that they are of a different sexual orientation than the majority.

I never thought it was anybody's business but my own as to whom I choose to share my bed with. I can think of nothing more private and personal. I was under the impression that it had not affected my persona as an artist and writer at all, or if I did, it was not all that negative or detrimental to my being able to lead a pleasant life surrounded by my many, many friends whom I love very much and who, I am sure, love me too. I have always loved people; maybe being an only child had something to do with it, however as I get older I find that, no matter how many friends surround and support you, we are all, hetero or not, very much alone as we make our way inexorably to our final destination. Having mutually empathic and honest relationships goes a long way to ease the burden of this human imposition. Crosses are easier to bear when one has a little help from one's friends.

What prompted me to write this was the alarming increase of homophobic letters in this paper negating all the mutual understanding and acceptance of how the other "third" lives that most of us have long taken for granted.

I was blissfully ignorant of the fact that there actually are people who are ready to put pen to paper spouting all sorts of quotations from the Bible. I have nothing against the good book, far from it, however we have to keep things in perspective here. The books wherein these extracts were taken were written several thousand years ago with the sole aim of keeping an evolving nomadic people united and strong by the simple expedient of increasing and multiplying it at all costs.

Then we had other people comparing men and women to plugs and sockets, out of all things! We had others who opined that homosexuality was a dangerously fashionable trend and that young people are trying it out for fun as if it were a pair of even more low-cut designer jeans!
Oddly enough these correspondents were mostly women, which I find strange as I have always found women, of all ages and social stratae, far more understanding and supportive than their male counterparts who prefer less complication and sophistry in their lives. Women, along with the homosexual twilight world, have, for millennia, been the object of suppression and emargination. Women's rights are still relatively new in the most enlightened parts of the world. I know people who have actually met suffragettes. These rights are non-existent in many others; far too many in fact. It is interesting to note that, while these backward bigoted communities still stone adulteresses and allow husbands to beat their wives and fathers to strangle disobedient daughters as a matter of course, homosexuals are hanged. We cannot accept this state of affairs in what we would like to call a "civilised" world can we? Of course not!
Our schooled, logical minds have been trained to apply a label to everything in order to keep them under control. If something is ambiguous or obscure then people get confused; should it be incomprehensible, they panic.

Homosexuality is incomprehensible in a world that we all desperately try to keep in order by continually categorising what's in it. The reasons why it exists, apart from being totally lost in the mists of time, are still very much under continual discussion and are as variable as Heinz 57. Although it is an accepted fact that people are born that way and that the gene can be inherited, making it an integral component of the natural world, there are still people who think that homosexuality is unnatural and that people can be born heterosexual and be corrupted into becoming homosexual.

There are also those who believe that people who are born homosexual can, with careful nurturing, for which one must read, brainwashing, become heterosexual.

Both theories are a load of codswallop. What is happening is that, with general sexual liberation, many people are more open to understanding the world around them and that is all.

So it should be a matter of total unimportance should your neighbours be gay or not, shouldn't it?

Sexual liberation has produced a jaded palate in as far as sex is concerned. Nudity has actually lost its attraction as we are confronted with it everywhere.

All this exposure has had another detrimental effect other than jading the sexual palate, which I find even more dangerous. The regular and relentless marketing of "body beautiful" in the media has created a huge inferiority complex in all of us mere mortals who do not live in a gym or a beauty parlour and do not look like statues by Praxiteles. This bombardment of "flesh" causes people to feel very insecure should they not fit the "fashionable" requirements of what is considered to be beauty. It causes much unhappiness and, occasionally, has tragic results too.
Today's Malta presents a strange and complex scenario wherein, by and large, sexual and social irregularity is tacitly accepted. The acceptance of affairs of all kinds was always governed by a code of conduct that was like a gracious minuet; constrained by strict unwritten rules practised by both parties. The dictum made famous by Patrick Campbell that as long as one did things behind closed doors it was fine, as long as one did not frighten the horses in the street. Hers was a code that epitomised the pretty lax morality of the naughty 1990s and Edwardian England.
What Gay Rights and Gay Pride wish to achieve is the eradication of hypocrisy, which is all very well and good. The fear is that, in doing so too vociferously, they may awaken and provoke a disproportional sleeping tiger of homophobia and do more harm than good. It is indeed a great risk and a very brave choice, the results of which are highly uncertain.

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