Sunday, 23 September 2012


So I was reading a book in the living room while Susan was watching TV. Coronation Street, which caused me to look up occasionally,  had finished and this programme started. "Anything else you want to watch?" I asked Susan. "No," she replied. I turned back to my book.

Look, I never claimed to have elitist taste or anything like that. Low-brow, if anything. But it's good low-brow, it's cult off the wall stuff -just check out the list of stuff in the sidebar. This sort of fluff just isn't me. I mean, it's got its place, and I'm sure it has decent ratings, especially following Corrie and with nothing outstanding on BBC1 to compete with it; it just isn't me.

Then the first couple came out and I looked up in surprise.

The star guest (left) was Anthony Cotton, a long-standing and popular member of the Corrie cast who played an affected gay man and who, in real life is a less-affected gay man, with his normally limelight-avoiding partner Peter.

Wow, I thought, times have changed. There was no hint of irony or daring or nudge-nudge in their appearance; they were treated exactly like the other two couples on the show which of course is as it should be.

Actually what really shocked me was the famous footballer (no, I don't remember his name) who had never made a cup of tea or coffee in his life, didn't know where the washing machine was, and couldn't work the microwave. He lived at home until he married his childhood sweetheart who took over where his mother left off. He did share something with the other celebrity couple, Rachel Stevens and husband, who were seen on a video clip aged 13 at a bar-mitzvah, he full of (probably fake) cocky bravado making sure his friend saw him eyeing up a dancing Miss Stevens. Sweet, really.

Getting back to what this post is about, as I watched I reflected that in previous decades when the subject of a This Is Your Life show was gay, that aspect of their life was never mentioned and their partner would never appear.

Then a few days later it occurred to me to ask myself: why am I making a deal about this? It wouldn't be an issue of any kind to my twenty-somethings niece and nephew who grew up in an era where a person's sexuality isn't an issue.

If you read the top of the page where I state my views, making it clear that I am against homophobia, sexism, racism, etc, you can see where I stand. But it wasn't always such.

I grew in the 50's and 60's when they were ingrained, institutionalised attitudes in society. They were part of every day life. They were attitudes which kids who grew up then absorbed like osmosis. I'm not saying I was racist, even though the n-word was used quite casually. Hell, I was reading James Baldwin at fourteen. I have never thought a person was of a different status to me because of the colour of their skin, but in an area where people from an ethnic or cultural minority, other than Jews, were few and far between, they were different. When Chinese restaurants first started opening in Sunderland they caused quite a stir and jokes about Kit-e-Kat were common -I had my first in Stockton aged around 15 and it was great. Until my twenties, pizza was something I'd only seen in Mad Magazine.

I lived in a parochial world and it was only when, at 18 in 1966 I went away to college, coincidentally as the 60's really got hopping and the old order began to change that I underwent a change, including a spiritual quest for belief that concluded after several years with my confirmation as an atheist.

Time moves on and by the time I reached my thirties my views on society had pretty much coalesced into what they are today; bar the gradual leftward drift of my political views. But the thing is that whenever subjects like racism, homophobia, and sexism come up, I'm always conscious that I'm measuring my own response to confirm that I'm not homophobic, racist or sexist. This is something I shouldn't have to do because I know that I'm profoundly none of these things. Yet I'm still aware of them or of them not being there.

And now I know why. Unlike my young niece and nephew, I grew up in a narrow, grey era when these attitudes prevailed and, as a child and young teenager, I accepted them. What I had to do was to unlearn them.

For some reason this understanding, late as it is, seems important to me though I don't know why.

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