When my younger brother, John, was three years old, I remember our grandfather bending down to kiss him goodbye.
Three-year-old John took a step back and frowned,
“Mens don’t kiss mens,” he informed Grandfather.
Everyone laughed and Grandfather dutifully gave him his hand to shake, which John did with some aplomb.
I was reminded of John’s innocent statement recently, when reading an article in The Times by Alice Thomson, about the ongoing struggle for gay equality. It beggars belief that we should still have a need for this discussion but we do.
As readers of, “The Boy in the Cowboy Hat,” may remember, my brother John, was gay and died of AIDs in 1993 aged 31. Even he laughed at the irony of the words spoken by his three-year-old self in later years. However, he had merely been putting into words, the presumptions and beliefs of the time, back in 1964. I had thought we had come a long way from that time but perhaps not.
When my own children were young, it was considered ok to be gay but gay marriage was still not possible. My brother would have liked to marry his partner had it been allowed and he never did rule out having children. Sadly, Fate decreed he and his partner die young, long before the law changed to allow either ambition. They were always accepted by family and friends but they still faced religious disapproval and social prejudice from the wider world.
That things have improved legally, cannot be argued. That more change is needed in attitudes and retained prejudice, is certain.
Tom Daley has been in the news recently for wanting a family with his husband and for arranging for a surrogate mother to bear their child. He has received some very hurtful and unwarranted criticism it seems. More horrifying, is the fact that there are so many places in the world where homosexuality is still illegal. It seems that religion and power have much to answer for.
Despite the long road still to be travelled and the prejudices and misconceptions still to be overcome, there is a beacon burning at the end of the tunnel. I see this in the children of today, In particular, I see it in my grandchildren.
My grandchildren are the ones who will grow up wondering what all the fuss was about, much as we grew up wondering why women hadn’t always had the vote. This was brought home to me last year, when one of my grandsons came home from infant school and during a conversation with his equally young cousin, was heard to declare,
“Boys can marry boys and girls can marry girls…” it was said in such a matter of fact way that my heart almost burst. They will grow up without prejudice given the chance.
Although we still have a way to go, that statement alone, shows just how far we have come from that, not so long-ago time, when John declared,
“Mens don’t kiss mens.”
We’ll get there!