Monday, 11 February 2013

1988

Since I noticed my follower count on Twitter hit 1,972 (the year I was born), I've started sporadically tweeting things I remember from the year it shows. One thing I've noticed is that my follower count goes down as well as up. A lot! I suspect it's mostly Grant Shapps following and unfollowing me on his various accounts.

But today it hit 1988, and I tweeted this:
And it's true, that's a real, abiding memory I have of 1988. Sunshine, handsome boys, cheesy music and spectacular diarrhoea.

But there is more to say about 1988, to the extent that I'd feel dishonest about not having said it.

In 1988 I was a 16 year old at a Catholic school, and Section 28 was introduced. As the youngest of four brothers I was laden with familial and gender-based expectation. I knew what was expected of me. And I was successfully suppressing the knowledge that I fancied boys so deeply that I could make it imperceptible even to myself if I wanted. And I wanted.

I wasn't sporty or strong, but I was smart, and I could be funny, and this was my armour. Friends looked to me for advice on things. I was a leader. I was confident. I was exactly who I wanted to be, as long as I forgot about the fact that when I had sexual fantasies they were about Marcus from the year above and Paul from the year below and Bluey from Fields of Fire that I used to watch on the little black and white TV upstairs away from everyone else.

So I did forget about it. And Section 28 was introduced. And in the playground and the classrooms we laughed and joked about the "new gay laws". And we poked fun at the boys who walked differently. We poked fun at those who were a little more effeminate than they should be. We poked fun at those who were a little more sensitive than they should be.

And one day at lunch I told my friends to watch and I went up to a boy called Carl, in the year above me, and  I pretended to be holding a microphone and said "So, how do you think the new gay laws will affect you?" And he looked angry, and shocked and a little hurt and I ran away laughing.

I'm surprising myself by having to hold back a tear as I remember this. This is the root of homophobia. People say it's a misnomer because it's not about fear. Of course it's about fear. It's about the fear of being found out.

Carl, I'm so sorry. When I grew up, I tried to atone. I threw myself into voluntary work with Pride Scotland and the Equality Network and I so desperately want no-one else to have to be treated the way I treated you. I hope you can forgive me. I'll never forgive myself.