Chris Creegan

Comment | Ideas | Opinion

We really didn’t need to talk about Kevin

by Chris on 30th October 2017

So Kevin Spacey is gay. It’s one of those rumours that has circulated for years. A bit like the one about, Olympic hurdler, Colin Jackson. And we learned recently that Colin is gay too. But there the similarities come to a juddering halt.

That both of them, and many others, have fallen prey to the whims of gossip mongers and curtain twitchers over the years is deplorable. Coming out is, for any of us, a right and not an obligation. And though I’ll freely admit to having been frustrated at times by the reluctance of senior figures and stars to come out, I’ve had nothing but sympathy for their predicament.

Jackson is a case in point. As a runner who is gay, I’ve longed for the day when athletes at the top of our sport feel able to come out. Why? Because I know from my own experience what a difference it could have made to me as a kid. But Jackson offered a perfectly plausible and understandable reason for not going public earlier; he didn’t want his private life sensationalised. And which of us would?

Yet Spacey’s coming out has left me cold at best and I’m not alone. In choosing to come out at a point when he is hit by a scandal which appears to be very much of his own making, he has left us with little reason to feel any sense of solidarity or empathy for his years in the wilderness.

Even worse he appears to have offered his latent sexuality as an excuse for his actions. To describe his resultant apology as mealy-mouthed would be very generous indeed. If Anthony Rapp’s allegations are true, it is hard to believe that his assailant could have forgotten what happened. The idea that Mr Spacey was too spaced out to remember seems scarcely credible.

The alternative explanation that he can’t recall what happened because it was an everyday occurrence really doesn’t bear thinking about. And while there’s no suggestion that it was, it would barely be unreasonable to draw such an inference.

When I first came out to my late father in 1980, his response after weeks of silence was that I should ‘go for a long, hard run, take a cold shower and avoid the occasion of sin’. It was a response which left me raging and yet I came, in the end, to understand that it was one borne of fear. Fear that I would end up a dirty old man in a raincoat, the kind that we were told preyed on young boys.

And later when, as a young activist, I took up the cudgels in defence of fellow gay workers, one of the commonplace obstacles that we faced was the suggestion that homosexuality and the sexual abuse of children were somehow the same deviant affliction. This was enormously harmful for everyone and especially for those who worked with children.

We were not helped in those days by a small number in our midst who wilfully confused our quest for gay liberation with their quest for paedophile rights. They seized on the opportunity to use our arguments about equalising the age of consent, to have it lowered to provide cover for their predilection for sexual relations with children.

Well thanks very much, Kevin. Slowly but surely we won the argument that the connection between gay sexuality and paedophilia was a conspiracist’s charter. We had the sexual abuse of children by thousands of priests to contend with along the way. But we got there in the end. And then you come along with a big fat poison chalice for us, all it seems to protect your own back.

So we have to restate the facts all over again. We have nothing in common with those who prey on children. Our sexuality is not a disorder. We are no more likely to be paedophiles than straight people. In fact, the overwhelming majority of those who sexually abuse children are heterosexual men. And we will say these things again. And because we have made so much progress, our gains will surely be resilient.

But that doesn’t undo the damage you have done, Kevin, or excuse it. Not least because it will provide those who harbor such prejudices against us to whip them up again. It will allow them to raise completely unfounded questions about the role of LGBT people as parents and as people fit to care for children. And it will sow seeds in the minds of young LGBT people that their emergent sexuality is something to be ashamed of because it is connected in the popular imagination to such behaviour. Or much worse, that their feelings equate to it, with potentially devasting consequences.

So for the avoidance of doubt let it be said that the only tangential connection is this. A lack of openness about sexuality within institutions, formal and informal, occludes the acknowledgement of appropriate, normal and healthy sexual boundaries. There, dishonesty and denial thrive. And in the silence which follows, men who want to abuse children find hiding places to perpetrate their crimes.

But paedophilia has the abuse of power at its heart. Our sexuality does not. We really didn’t need to talk about Kevin. But he has left us with no choice.

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