The Independent on Sunday gave rugby player Gareth Thomas the honour of heading its 2010 Pink List — a compilation of 101 most influential gay and lesbian people in Britain today. By coming out, Thomas showed how gay men could be found even in the most rugged and masculine of professions.
Together with the List’s release, the newspaper did a story on the state of gay equality in the world today. In More than 70 countries make being gay a crime, it noted that “76 countries still prosecute people on the grounds of their sexual orientation – seven of which punish same-sex acts with death.”
By contrast, “53 have anti-discrimination laws that apply to sexuality [and only] 26 countries recognise same-sex unions.”
British Prime Minister David Cameron — who is from the Conservative Party, in case you didn’t know — issued a congratulatory statement in conjunction with the publication of 2010 Pink List. He said:
Yes, the UK is a world leader for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality, but we cannot be complacent. As long as there are people out there feeling marginalised or threatened, we must continue to tackle prejudice.
In June, the coalition government set out an ambitious programme which includes tackling bullying in schools, changing the law on historical convictions for gay sex that is now legal and commencing the Equality Act. It’s also important that we maintain the drive on tackling hate crime in our communities and promoting better recording of homophobic attacks.
Particularly interesting was this:
We are also using our relationship with other countries to push for support for gay rights and for UK civil partnerships to be recognised internationally.
Singapore’s prime minister’s balls will probably shrink out of fear should he be asked to issue a similar statement defending full equality for gay people, with visions of religious bigots coming after him. Our so-called “world-class” government is among the 76 that continue to criminalise gay men.
The Independent on Sunday’s Pink List includes many businessmen, journalists and broadcasters, judges, several politicians (including the Minister of Policing, the Deputy Mayor of London and the Deputy Leader of the Liberal-Democratic Party), the coach for England’s Women’s football team, a unionist and religious leaders.
In 19th place is James Wharton, a trooper with the Household Cavalry:
The Iraq veteran was on the cover of Soldier magazine last year in a bid to combat the taboo against gay people that remains in many parts of the armed forces. But things are changing – for when Trooper Wharton got married in March, the reception was held at the Household Cavalry’s Knightsbridge barracks in London.
In 100th place is Joe McElderry, the 2009 winner of singing competition X Factor, but his story reminds us that prejudice against gay people remain very strong. Through the competition, he dissembled whenever asked about his sexual orientation. As the Independent on Sunday wrote:
Social pressure to be “straight” in Britain has yet to be eliminated. When the X Factor winner Joe McElderry, 19, came out as gay yesterday, it was after previously feeling unable to admit his sexuality. Even when someone hacked into his Twitter account to “out” him last month, he still insisted he was straight. According to Stonewall, almost two-thirds of young lesbian, gay and bisexual people experience homophobic bullying in Britain’s schools.
Here are two Youtube videos of McElderry’s performances:
The next one has backing dancers too, but McElderry showed he had “as much latin flair as a dolphin” — in Simon Cowell’s inimitable words.
Of X Factor 2009’s twelve finalists, the one who really caught my eye — if you know what I mean — was Danyl Johnson, a school teacher. Yes, in Britain, the government does not have a problem with gay men as school teachers, unlike in Singapore, where ours buys into the ridiculous notion that gay men are necessarily bad role models.
Johnson, however, had very uneven performances; some weeks he was terrible, but when he was good, he was gooood. Despite going off-pitch too often, especially in the low registers, he sings with a captivating intensity:
In the video just above, the second of the four judges made an issue of the fact he “turned a girl song into a guy song.” This was in relation to the line “You’re the best guy I’ve ever known” at the 22nd second in the video. (At 03:22, you can hear Johnson respond to the judge, “I am not ashamed.” Kudos to him.)
Even in the entertainment world, we have people who think artistes should perform heterosexuality.
If we want to be generous, we could say perhaps the judge was merely being helpful, advising him to avoid putting his sexual orientation out front lest he lose out on popular votes – X Factor’s weekly results are based on audience votes. But this kind of advice — to conceal one’s gay orientation — is ultimately very damaging because in the end it does nothing but reinforce heteronormativity.