I was in an ancient pub once. Some of the rooms dated back to the mid seventeenth century. One room had been used as a mortuary for bodies in transit - in the days when communications traveled at the speed of no more than four horse power.
As I settled down to a pint of Butcombe, I got chatting with a couple who were staying over the road in a restaurant with rooms. The male was in his fifties at least, and the female could not have been over 23 and looked a little vacant. Goodness knows how this came up, but I mentioned the world going to the dogs and how even the council estate Jasons and the Kelly-Anns had enough money to spend on tasteless trash these days, and of course they were creating a demand for even more trash. The young girl looked and me and said, "My name is Kelly-Ann".
There was nowhere for me to go, was there? Hoisted on my own sozzled, stupid, rant.
I suppose I had drunkenly assumed an intimacy, a shared world, that in reality did not exist. Somehow, it does not surprise me how many people say things on Facebook and Twitter, and then have to make grovelling apologies all around. They have been kidded into thinking that what they have to say is only shared with "friends". And I use the last word with a sneer. Broadcasters regularly do this. An off-the-cuff remark that, shared in a pub with mates, might just get let by, but in front of millions, not.
Sarah Kennedy did her BBC Radio 2 show so early in the morning, she cannot have believed anybody was seriously listening, day after day, when she made remarks such as not being able to see black people in the dark. Chris Bryant somehow imagined that taking a photo of himself in his underpants and publishing it on a Gay dating site was not going to come to the attention of the newspapers. And those Twitter posts - countless instances where the twitterer forgot he was talking to more than just a mate.
We live in an era of global intimacy. We have mistaken Facebook, Twitter, Blogging, and web sites in general, etc, for real intimacy, the kind you have with trusted old friends. This is an absurdity. As humans we are designed to interact humanly, not mediated by an electronic device. We employ for this our senses, our subconscious feelings and our experience. And for some reason, people throw these indicators, all these things designed to protect us, away.
I remember Billy Connolly telling a joke about the hostage, Ken Bigley. He referred to the threats of his beheading by his captors: "Perhaps I shouldn’t be saying this ... aren’t you the same as me, don’t you wish they would just get on with it". I don't suppose it got a laugh among Bigley's loved ones. Maybe, just maybe, it might have been funny as a throw-away line, done on the spur of the moment, with a few people you know very well. Maybe, but Connolly has always worked the room as an intimate comic and yet he was playing to the world. Just the other day, MP and former Minister, Tom Harris, had to call in the police because he was getting abusive "Tweets". I would like to believe that the individual concerned would not have said the things he did to Tom's face, but you never know. The boundaries have blurred, and that in itself is inherently dangerous.
This all sort of brings me to the point of this post, which is about how homosexuals stay in the closet because they fear the reaction when they come out. You see, it seemed incomprehensible to me that gays call it "the worst/hardest/etc, day of my life". We are largely a tolerant society, I personally am not anti-gay and I welcome the idea of friends and family being fully what they are, feeling able to be themselves.
Think back then, to the playground; that courtyard of cruelty. Just think, for the last 20 or thirty years or so, kids have accused other school kids of being gay, of sticking willies up somebodies bum and generally being a perv. "Don't touch him, he's got AIDS!" You can hear it can't you? Is there any wonder then, that gays genuinely fear a loathsome reaction for coming out, if in the company of friends, they hear the words, poofter, shirt-lifter, arse bandit, and the rest. What if it turns out your best friend is secretly gay, but fears your reaction because of a few jokey, off the cuff epithets?
And that comes back to the beginning. If we genuinely want gays to feel comfortable in society, and anyone else for that matter, perhaps a little care with our words might not go amiss when addressing our thoughts to the world at large.