SUZANNE HARRINGTON: We all deserve a right to be ordinary and boring

THE ARTIST David Hockney thinks gay people today are boring because they “want to be ordinary — they want to fit in.” 

He has never wanted to marry a man. “No, no, no,” he told The Guardian, appalled at the idea. “Bohemia was against the suburbs. And now the suburbs have taken over.”

Hockney is 77. When he was young, being gay was illegal. The idea of marriage equality would have been outlandish in an era where you could still be thrown in jail just for being yourself. Laws made by and for the sexual majority set the sexual minority apart, and drove them underground.

For the lucky ones like Hockney, whose talent gave him the golden keys to Californian bohemia, this underground was a fabulous place.

For ordinary gay people, it remained dismally out of reach; many gay people married members of the opposite sex just to fit in. Imagine what that must have felt like. Your whole life pretending to be something you are not so that you are not rejected, ridiculed, reviled.

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What is most extraordinary in this 2015 marriage referendum is that heterosexuals have any say in it at all. When have gay people ever been consulted about the legalities of straight lives? Why are straight people being asked to vote about something that has no impact on their lives, other than as potential guests at future weddings? Surely, only the legal opinion of those who identify as gay, lesbian or trans is what matters?

Nor does this referendum affect older people as much as younger people, and as such, if the referendum extends to everybody, gay and straight, then it should primarily include teenagers, as they are the next generation who will marry and start families.

A 15-year-old has a lot more vested interest in the kind of society we want to create than someone a generation or two older; this is not ageism, but an acknowledgement that whatever we create now, the next generation has to inhabit. It is the young who should be the architects of their own future, rather than any future dictated by old school attitudes from the past.

Some of the older generation — from the opposite poles of gay bohemians like David Hockney to religious zealots like Bishop Kevin Doran — are not keen on marriage equality, for very different reasons. But for many same sex families, marriage equality will not invent what already exists, but merely bestow the same rights as everyone else.

Unlike Hockney, many people — gay and straight — are not horrified by suburbia. To imagine all gay people embrace the disco ghetto is like assuming all straights want 2.4 kids.

Such delineations are daft, and get in the way of ordinary people pursuing what they may really want from life. Freedom, respect, inclusion, and most of all, the right to be ordinary. The right to be boring.

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