It would come as absolutely no surprise to anyone, least of all my close friends and family, if I was to ‘come out’ as ‘gay’. Since the earliest age I can remember, I have adhered to many of the stereotypes and was regularly taunted throughout my childhood by others who were quick to label my sexuality as such, whether I wanted to or not.
At the age of 14, I remember, quite distinctly, confronting my parents and warning them of the possibility that their youngest son might be homosexual. They hardly battered an eyelid then, now they’re more surprised if ever I bring back a partner who happens to be female.
There is no reason whatsoever that the idea of ‘coming out’ would ever be an issue for me. If I am prepared to stand upto the world press and unashamedly confess to a life of porn and stripping while teaching minors, I think telling a predominantly gay-friendly friendship group and family something they half expect to hear anyway, would hardly be the greatest of challenges I’d ever have to face.
Except for the fact that identifying myself as ‘gay’ would be a dishonest representation of my sexuality. But then, so would calling myself ‘straight’.
It is understandable, that in a society that has been conditioned to understand itself through the teachings of fairy tales and fables that divides the world into ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ and ‘good’ and ‘bad’, that it would wish, in order to perpetuate this ease of understanding for even the most simple of human brains, to compartmentalise every facet of humanity, irrespective of how complex its very nature may be.
It makes total sense to pigeon-hole those things whose barriers and limits are clearly identifiable – colours (eyes, hair, skin to a lesser extent), nationalities (one either is British or they are not, proven by a passport), genders (for the vast majority), jobs, religions – all things which people either are, or are not. But sexuality is far more complex than this.
I am frequently asked questions about my own sexuality, largely because I refuse to identify myself as either ‘gay’, ‘straight’ or even ‘bisexual’. Most recently, someone posted some interesting questions on my Ask.fm account and I would like to attempt to answer them as part of this blog post:
15 % of people don’t think bisexuality is a real sexual orientation Male bisexuals were viewed more negatively than female bisexuals http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2490825/15-percent-people-dont-think-bisexuality-real-sexual-orientation-straight-men-times-likely-categorize-thing.htmlAgree?
It is hardly a surprise to me that a certain percentage of people do not see bisexuality as a real sexual orientation, and even less of a surprise that the Daily Mail wishes to bring this to our attention or even thinks that there is any ‘news’ in this article. It also comes as no surprise that male bisexuals are viewed more negatively.
We live in a heterocentric society that is perpetuated, yet again, through the likes of fairy tales and religion from the earliest of ages. Even musical theatre, a staunchly ‘gay’ environment if ever there was one, does little to combat this heterocentricity and, except in rare instances, fails to redress the balance – more often, it adds to the stereotypes!
The majority of people live pretty predictable lives that have been pre-determined for them even before conception. Even today, the majority (although it may be dwindling) will stick to the ‘norms’ and customs that their society, through tradition, religion, community, expects of them. Whether they are coerced or simply ‘choose’ to partake in the rites of passages generations before them have pursued in order to ‘fit in’, most people, at least on paper, live predominantly carbon-copy lives.
The idea of stepping out of the heterosexual norm is not something that most people, at least publicly, are prepared to do. This is not unusual. Even in the more liberal societies, on the whole, most people tend not to deviate from what is considered ‘normal’, whatever it may be. But things are changing. What is, perhaps, the most interesting and pleasantly surprising discovery of this study, is that such a low percentage do not recognise bisexuality. This is clearly progress.
What is not surprising, however, is the idea that male bisexuals are viewed in a far more negative light than female.
Late last night/early morning, while attempting to find something on TV that might lull me off to sleep, I happened upon an episode of the Jerry Springer show. This is always a mistake if you are wishing to reaffirm your faith in humanity. Rarely does a talk show audience out-do the guests when it comes to the shame stakes as they are encouraged, at the end of the show, to taunt those who have shared their stories with some of the most juvenile, one-up-man, right-wing rhetoric that any high school bully would be proud of. Its mob rule against anyone who deviates from the US ‘ideal’. It will surprise no-one that a lady, who had just confessed to a one-night stand with her lesbian room-mate, was ceremoniously cheered and exalted with chants of “We love lesbians! We love lesbians!”. I would hazard a guess that, had it be a man doing it with his gay roomie, the reaction might have been quite different.
The ‘heterosexual male’ loves a lesbian. Oh no, not an ACTUAL lesbian, you understand? But a ‘lesbian’ on their terms. That is to say, an essentially ‘straight’ woman getting it on with another, essentially, ‘straight’ woman, usually for the viewing pleasure of said male, of course. ‘Straight’ porn is littered with scenes of ‘straight’ women exploring other ‘straight’ women’s genitals for the viewing pleasure of ‘straight’ males.
While I regularly defend the principle of pornography, I am the first to admit that it still largely caters for the heterosexual male, his view of the female and her place in society and in the bedroom. The ‘lesbian’ fantasy is one that caters to his urges and desires. One that says “we’re doing this for you” or even “maybe you too could get involved!”. The ‘lesbian’ fantasy therefore panders to the heterosexual male ego, it perpetuates his view that women serve to pleasure him, not that these women are indulging in ‘lesbian’ activity for their own benefit or enjoyment, but for that of the heterosexual male onlooker. It does not, in any way, threaten his own sexuality or make him question it in any way, it reaffirms his alpha-male status and the notion that women, however homosexual he allows them to be, are ultimately fulfilling his own sexual urges and fantasies.
However, the same men who jump at the idea of women embracing same-sex love are often repulsed by the equivalent within the male population. The mere notion of a man even looking at them in an admiring way is enough to make some of the male species vomit in their own mouths. For some men, this is threatening, both physically and to their own sexuality. The idea that another man may look at them and wish to treat to them in the way that he likes to look and treat women is degrading to him. Too often, men like to dominate. Men like to be in control. Men like to be the givers, the providers and never the receivers. To be seen to surrender this role is, in their eyes, a sign of weakness, a slight on their masculinity. Its not that men are physically incapable of, or don’t have the potential of, exploring their homosexuality, its simply that they don’t want to. Or, put more accurately, they do as much as possible to show publicly that they don’t want to.
The fact is, many men, even the most die-hard ‘straight’ man does often venture into their homosexual side. Sometimes through the mere act of ‘accepted’ moments of homo-erotic male bonding (sports – if boxing and wrestling aren’t latent excuses for hoards of men to watch big muscly guys get sweaty in little more than their underwear, then I’m the Pope!) or the increase in sales of such things as muscle and men’s health magazines (narcissism, ‘self love’ by another name, it takes an attraction to one’s own gender to appreciate beauty in yourself), often through coercion in institutions like public schools, single-sex schools, prisons, the military, religious institutions (of course!), sometimes through the aid of alcohol or drug-induced antics to remove the inhibitions and sometimes, even, in a mere sober state, but willing to take the plunge and give it a try.
I cannot count the number of times I have been hit-on by supposedly ‘straight’ men. Strangers, both drunk and sober, and long time friends, both drunk sober. Several people who are now married with kids have asked me, on numerous occasions, to be their long-term lover. Through my work too, I have received many requests from married men, curious men, men who identify as ‘straight’ but would like to give it a go, nothing surprises me at all.
I think people assume that my view of sexuality comes simply from my own feelings in my own head. That would be, even in my own opinion, a poor basis on which to reach a conclusion. Sexuality is complex, it takes more than inner debates with myself to attempt to make some level of understanding of it. I have perhaps been more fortunate (you may disagree) in my level of exposure and experience within the world of sexual exploration than the average person. Some might say this could warp my opinion, but I would argue it gives me a greater level of understanding of the many different perspectives and workings of the human mind around it. So, while you may believe that Benedict’s opinion of sexuality simply comes from a concoction within his own head, let me reassure you that it is also a blend of the experiences and encounters I’ve had with others, their views of their own and human sexuality and the research of many professionals in the field I have personally encountered and read about too.
I am often accused of ‘claiming’ to be ‘bisexual’ in order to appease both women and men and, more specifically, to tap into the pink pound. Firstly, I make no claim to being ‘bisexual’. I state, quite categorically that I am not ‘gay’ and neither am I ‘straight’. I reject the term ‘bisexual’, but if you choose to label me as such, it is your label and not mine. Secondly, anyone who knows me and spends any time reading my posts, tweets and listening to what I have to say, knows full well that I am not on some kind of PR campaign. Unlike many people who call themselves ‘celebs’ (not that I do), I have strong opinions and am not afraid to express them, regardless of who I may offend along the way. I will not swallow my tongue in order to have a more captive market to sell a brand or a product to. Those people who also know me, are fully aware that money is not my main driving force. So, the idea that I wish to pursue some kind of gay market in order to keep their cash flowing in my direction is preposterous. I am not attempting to please or appease anyone, but to give an accurate depiction of my own view of sexuality. I don’t care one bit who agrees or does not agree.
I recognise that, sometimes, I don’t give people enough credit. Many people who say they are either ‘gay’ or ‘straight’ do so simply for ease of communication and not wishing to invite a lengthy debate and explanation, particularly with a complete stranger. This is totally understandable. I suppose my issue is not with the questionee. I mean, if you’re asking the question, you’re unlikely to appreciate the complexity of the answer. Many times I’ve been approached by drunk ‘ladies’ with the same question: “are you gay?”. Sometimes I wish I had simply said “yes”. At least then I wouldn’t be wasting my time attempting to explain to someone who’s brain is so frazzled by their alcohol intake about the complexities of human sexuality or, yet again, asking myself why those who are so curious about where I stick my penis nearly always seem to suffer the same level of halitosis. If anything will turn someone ‘gay’, its the rat-arsed ignoramus who will ask you if you are.
It is completely understandable to me that someone who feels strong feelings for people of the same sex would wish to find peers who think similarly and are accepting of it. That is common within humanity. Which is precisely why newly arrived immigrant groups tend to form ghettos in large cities in order to feel secure within a community of commonality within a wider society that is perhaps hostile towards their presence. Exactly the same can be said for people who identify themselves as ‘gay’.
Despite much progress in a relatively short amount of time, the UK is still not as accepting to homosexuality as it could be. Even in the larger cities, it can still be a threatening environment to anyone who is brave enough to publicly admit to being ‘gay’ or ‘lesbian’. It makes total sense that those men and women who have the courage to publicly stand up and announce their homosexuality, knowing that this is the situation, will often (by no means all) seek the support and friendship of those of a like mind. A feeling of belonging, whatever the basis of that community you belong to, is an important part of the human experience. No-one likes to feel alone, even the most independent of people like to know that there is a support network out there if ever they need it.
The development of the ‘gay’ community is therefore a logical progression in a society that is yet to find general acceptance of homosexuality as a natural part of human sexuality and still, to a large degree, perceives it as a ‘abnormal’, ‘deviant’ and, in some cases, ‘immoral’. I cannot, under these circumstances, in any way, blame, or criticise, any individual for wishing to identify as ‘gay’ and feel, to whatever degree, part of that experience.
Indeed, I even support the gay community on many occasions – performed at Manchester & Glasgow Pride, go-go danced and stripped at numerous gay clubs in London, Manchester, Spain and Antwerp, been interviewed on Gaydar radio, was an announcer on Gay TV when it existed, been in numerous gay lifestyle magazines, performed in a solo scene for a gay porn site and toured the UK in a gay comedy playing a gay Spanish naturist. While the UK still deems homosexuality as abnormal and while significant numbers of Brits still choose to judge those who choose to explore this avenue of their sexuality as sinful, based on the teachings of a centuries-old text that is purportedly handed down through the words of a supernatural mythical entity (or a fairy tale, as we commonly call such nonsense), I will do everything I can to support the ‘gay’ community in this country and around the world.
This does not mean however, that I am not critical of the label ‘gay’ (hence my continual use of the inverted commas). As I explained earlier, I am uncomfortable with limiting something as complex as human sexuality to simply two narrow labels. But, beyond that, I have two further criticisms of this, and any other label, that we use to define our sexualities.
On the many occasions that I am confronted by that inebriated loon in the club who demands to know in which hole I happen to stick my ‘chap’, my usual response (after “why is it any of your business other than the person into whom I’m sticking it?”) is nearly always: “I’m human”. Now, some people might deem this a pretentious and unnecessarily obvious comment to make. But the point I am attempting to put across to the brain-dead lost cause in the flashing lights of a cheesy nightclub is that there is only one sexuality – human sexuality. We all have the potential, to greater and lesser degrees to explore both extremities of our sexualities. Most people don’t, for many reasons already discussed, but others do. For those who do, the fact that one day they choose to explore their homosexual side should no longer label them as ‘gay’ for the rest of their life as much as someone who ventures into the heterosexual realm as ‘straight’. Sexuality is fluid and complex, just because most humans suppress the notion, does not make it less so.
To say I AM ‘gay’, i.e. to use the verb ‘to be’ to explain your sexuality, implies that your sexuality defines who you ARE and is, by and large, a permanent and rigid state. I do not believe anyone IS a sexuality. I believe we enter same-sex relationships, but we do so as human beings with a sexuality that is capable of developing in so many ways. We enter relationships with individuals and not with genders or genitals. We are attracted to a person for who they are, not for what they have hanging, or not, between their legs. If you genuinely believe that the mere detail of the gender of the person with whom you choose to involve yourself with romantically is a defining part of your personality and that you are a sum of which hole you choose to penetrate or be penetrated in, then maybe you are happy to believe that a sexuality IS what you ARE. I believe MY identity is formed by various aspects and, certainly, the PERSON I may be in a relationship with will impact and influence on that, but not the fact they are either male or female. I will not let the notion that I am pursuing either a homosexual or heterosexual relationship at any given time in my life, allow me to believe that my life is defined by a narrow set of stereotypes and generalisations that I now feel I should have to adhere to in order to ‘fit in’ or, even, give other people the privilege of doing it for me. Take ownership of your own individual sexuality and don’t let anyone or any community do it for you.
But why am I so reluctant to call myself ‘bisexual’? I hear you ask. If we accepted that all human beings are, by nature, bisexual, then it would not be an issue. But ‘bisexual’ is still banded around as a term to describe something that a minority of people indulge in and is deemed as going against the ‘norm’. Allowing yourself to be labelled, or being given the label, ‘bisexual’ is deeply unhelpful to the rest of society in understanding their own sexuality and the inevitable confusions and discoveries that arise throughout their own lives as part of it. The moment we label someone as ‘gay’, ‘straight’ or ‘bisexual’, we allot them into distinct groups that any individual is either part of or not, as the case may be. Its US and THEM. I am STRAIGHT. HE is GAY. SHE is BISEXUAL. Narrow, rigid confines, the likes of fairy tale idealism, in order to make sense of the complicated human experience for the lowest common denominator who is incapable of understanding anything with a bit more depth and complexity.
If you have read this far and not completely zoned-out, you will appreciate (even if you don’t agree with) the reason that I find the labels ‘gay’ and ‘straight’ inaccurate depictions of our human sexuality. The term ‘bisexual’, despite perhaps attempting to put a more logical label on it and while we allot it to only those who openly admit to a ‘selfish’ sexuality, is actually deeply unhelpful for the rest of us to understand ourselves. With the US and THEM scenario, it relinquishes us of taking ownership of our own human sexuality and ghettoises it into the three, supposedly distinct, sexualities of STRAIGHT, GAY and BISEXUAL. It negates the abilities of all us to explore the fullest potentials of our innate sexualities for fear of being labelled one or the other, potentially for life, by failing to recognise that we can venture down any path at any time – turn left, turn right, turn right again, make a u-turn, go the wrong way down a one-way road – and simply be what we always have been: SEXUAL BEINGS. Or, as I say in my condescending and pretentious manner: “human”.
“Have you fallen in love with a man ? Possibly” previously you’ve said you don’t believe in being ‘in love’ and also if you have , go for it for all the guys who might be ‘in the closet’ and scared to come out . You could be a role model for young homosexuals
I have always said that I am happy to pursue relationships with any individual that I am attracted to. The gender is irrelevant.
There is, however, no need for me to ‘come out’. If you’ve read this far, it will be quite clear as for my reasons why. I have had limited sexual experiences with men. I feel no need to publicly announce it, as I felt no need to publicly announce the times I have had liaisons with women. The individuals I choose to have relationships and sexual encounters with is no-one’s business but my own and the person or people with whom I am in a relationship or sexual encounter with.
Again, I completely understand why some people feel that ‘coming out’ can be beneficial to coming to terms with their sexual preferences, that it may indeed have a cathartic effect and mark the beginning of a new, confident life for them having made public knowledge the way that they deem their sexuality should be identified. I would not wish to deny that to anyone. If ‘coming out’ makes sense to you and is helpful to you, then that is great. Go for it! However, I have stated previously, when asked by a young person, that no-one should have to feel under any pressure to have to ‘come out’ at any point in their life. Who you are intimate with is your business and no-one else’s. Make it as public as you like, but don’t believe that ‘coming out’ is a necessary part of coming to terms with your natural human sexuality.
So, to address the above point raised on Ask.fm, there will be no ceremonial ‘coming out’ for Benedict Garrett. He has been out and proud for many years. Out, that is, as a human being who is proud to explore all avenues of his sexuality without the need to give it a label, limit it or put lids on it.
I apologise if this negates my ability to be a role model to anyone. I have never in my life attempted to be a role model. It is touching that many people have said, for various reasons, that I am, but I have never intended on being so. I live my life according to my own values and beliefs and try to be as true to myself about who I am. This is not about being a role model. If I am to enter a relationship with someone of the same-sex, I do it solely for my selfish pursuit of love and happiness, not in order to be a role model for anyone – ‘gay’, ‘straight’ or ‘bisexual’.
So, am I ‘gay’? No, but you’re not either.
- Lebanon’s gay-friendly reputation challenged by abuses (bbc.co.uk)
- Taiwan’s President ‘Respects’ Gay Marriage, Which Is Still Illegal (towleroad.com)
- Suicide rates of gay people too high a price to pay, says Governor-General Quentin Bryce (theage.com.au)
- The bisexuality spectrum (dailycal.org)