Sunday, July 06, 2008

Diving into the new world.

There is a new world out there, being born as we speak, and it terrifies the forces of conservatism. Consider just two examples that I read recently.

British actor John Barrowman plays the ambisexual hunk hero, Captain Jack Harkness in the British hit sci-fi series Torchwood. He told the story of a young boy who came up to him for an autograph and said: “I don’t care if Captain Jack likes boys and girls. He’s still my hero.” Barrowman, who is gay, said: “He epitomizes how kids don’t care. Adults are afraid.”

Barrowman had a civil union with his partner of 15 years and is openly gay and it hasn’t hurt his career one bit. If anything he’s more popular today than ever.

Matt Mitcham, 20, is a top contender in the Olympics representing Australia in diving. He was being interviewed by the Sydney Morning Herald and the reporter, Jessica Halloran, asked him if he was living with anyone. Without giving it much thought he said he was lived with his partner, Lachlan. The newspaper headline saye he was “declaring his homosexuality”.

Other publications said similar things. The whole story was that he “came out of the closet”.

Mitcham is perplexed. He wants to know why the press thinks this is a big deal since he wasn’t in the closet to begin with. Mitcham told his family and friends that he was gay when he was 14 years old. He said: “I came out years ago. All that happened was that I was doing an interview with the Herald and there was a pretty innocuous question, ‘Who do I live with?’ and I just said ‘my partner Lachlan’. And the journalist was really excited -- she thought it was absolutely wonderful.”

The journalist is part of the old world. Mitcham is part of the new world. In the old world being gay is something unusual. In the new world it is rather mundane. In the old world the reaction to the news is surprise, maybe even horror. In the new world the reaction is, “yea, so what.”

The reality is that the young, in most enlightened parts of the Western world, simply don’t find being gay particularly odd or noteworthy. Many young people have gay friends that they grew up with. Instead of hiding their sexuality for decades more and more gay adolescents are open about it right from the start.

For many young people there is no such thing as a closet. And that is what scares the conservatives who try to instil shame and fear into anyone who is gay or different.

What this means is simple. The world has changed.

So what about things like gay marriage bans in various states and other antigay legislation. Such measures are dinosaurs lumbering along toward extinction. They already feel a chill in the air that tells them they are doomed. They only cling to life barely. But as more and more of the old generations die off they are replaced by people who don’t have their manic fears and paranoid illusions.

The laws will change eventually. And when they do people will look back at them and think what fools we were to be upset by such things. And they will be right.