Thursday, April 14, 2011

Brody's Scribbles... Sir Ian McKellen Dreams Of An Education System Free From Homophobia

By Tim Trent (Dartmouth, England) APR 14 | Sir Ian McKellen is a powerful presence. As an actor we often associate him with the parts he's played on celluloid and on stage, perhaps most powerfully we recall Gandalf, but he is much more than that one part, than those parts. We forget that he is a crusader against homophobia and homophobic bullying. And then he makes us remember. His crusade, working this time with S onewall, the LGB but not T pressure group (I do wish we could call them Stonewall, it's high time they embraced the T) was reported well in yesterday's Guardian:
Gandalf has worked his magic in 54 secondary schools over the last two years. His dream? An education system free of the homophobia that has plagued it for years – and a curriculum that fully includes lesbian, gay and bisexual people.
Sir Ian Murray McKellen at Manchester Pride 2010
Photo via Tim Trent

The Guardian article is one of such immense power that I can't even start to do the topic justice. So let me tell you a story instead, a personal one. You see, one part of the article got to me.
"Do you know any gay people?" asks Sir Ian McKellen asks. Silence. Heads shake. "Well, you do now. I'm gay." It's my turn to speak up. "You know two now. I used to go to this school – and I'm gay," I offer. "You know three now," a sixth-former chips in. The other pupils don't look too surprised, and he seems admirably comfortable in his sexuality. Silence. Then: "Erm. Well. You know four now." Heads shoot around to see a uniformed boy, leaning close to McKellen. Mouths fall slightly open – including mine – but nobody speaks. Then McKellen says, in that mellifluous voice of his: 
"Well. How about that? It turns out we all know quite a few more gay people than we thought we did."
Tim Trent at 13
A uniformed schoolboy,
I read that opening paragraph and found my eyes were starting to leak and my breath was harder to take. I thought back to my own schooldays, to when I was the uniformed schoolboy- the one on the right here. I thought back to the many times when I almost told my best friend, Peter Davis, that I was queer and that I was head over heels in love, not with him, but with John Bensted, a boy our age who was his and my friend.
I read the article this morning. I haven't seen Peter since 1977 when he moved to Australia, and he and his wife came here on a rare trip to England and stayed here with us last night. It was an emotional evening, partly the unadulterated joy at re-meeting the man I wished could have been Best Man at my wedding, partly remembering that I also loved Peter when we were at school, though in a wholly different manner from my romantic and erotic adoration of John, for Peter was the brother I never had back then. And partly the emotion came from the memories that came crowding back into my head.
So, reading the Guardian article today, an article sent to me by a colleague from the North East, I found I was sitting beside the uniformed boy the article speaks of, and wishing I'd had his courage.
Last night I talked to Peter and his wife about my childhood. He talked about his. I told him years ago that I'm a gay man. He never thought it mattered. Beer and wine made the memories gain and lose their sharper edges. He had been unaware of how our school treated the queers that were discovered back then. He didn't know of the older boy who'd suggested to a younger boy that they might treat themselves to a mutual adoration session and who had been promptly expelled with the cover story that he'd 'had a nervous breakdown' and had to leave school early. That was what happened back then. He had no idea that people like him, like me, were treated with electric shock based aversion therapy in order to cure us when we were not ill.
And, today, that brings me right back to the uniformed pupil who came out of his personal prison in public. I'd never had the strength at his age.
Because of Sir Ian McKellen that boy had the strength.
My heart goes out to him. He is my unnamed hero. I wish he could know just how proud this complete stranger is of him.


Warren C. E. Austin said...

Sir Ian is to be lauded for his endeavours.

On another note: Hot damn, but you were one fine looking youngster Timmy.

Warren C. E. Austin
The Gay Deceiver
Toronto, Canada