Everyone wants to be popular. Perhaps there’s still a hermit, living in blissful solitude out in a cave in the Rockies (or the Appalachians, or whichever the nearest insurmountable mountain range nearest to you is) who genuinely doesn’t care how many retweets he gets, but for the vast majority of us, as dear old Glinda sang, ‘It’s all about popular’. Popular gets you jobs, popular gets you dates, popular gets you into parties where everyone stands around and discusses who’s popular.
I’ve wanted to be popular pretty much since I can remember, and I’ve not always gone about achieving it in a way that’d make my parents happy. For example, at school I went to a party thrown by ‘the cool kids’. I have no idea how I’d been invited, or even if I’d been invited, but I can vividly remember walking into the crowded back garden where everyone was drinking and the overwhelming paranoia of ‘Oh GOD I’m going to be kicked out’ overtaking me. I had no idea how to behave at all. The host walked up to me, said ‘hello’, and asked if I wanted a drink, at which stage a rather unusual defence mechanism kicked in.
‘Oh yes, I LOVE drinks!’
Over the following six hours I told various people that I loved (and I would like to emphasise this is by no means an exhaustive list) the Kaiser Chiefs, acoustic guitar, lacrosse, purchasing marijuana, South Park, heterosexual sex, bare knuckle fighting and Girls Aloud. While they were all said with increasing amounts of conviction, I have to admit I only meant one of them – no prizes for guessing which – but I was still spontaneously declaring myself a whatever-phile based on what people were telling me they were interested in. With the number of things I was telling people I enjoyed, or watched every episode of, or did at weekends, I should theoretically not have had time to go to school, let alone be at that party, but I was falling over myself to find something in common with whoever I was speaking to at the time.
Of course, it meant that when I went back to school on the Monday, I had person after person come up to me to further discuss my favourite thing in the world, only to become suspicious, then disappointed when I buckled under pressure and the conversation very obviously dried up. While the five or ten minutes of meaningless agreement and vague padding had been enough to get me by at the party, I wasn’t able to manage a sober discussion without getting rumbled as a fake.
This is what I believe is happening when British politicians – particularly those in mainstream parties – start talking about gay marriage. They’ve arrived at the party, realised no one likes them and said ‘Well, what’s in right now? What’s hip? What’s cool?’ They’re Regina George’s mother, only with faker tits.
Britain’s culture is leaning towards being in favour of gay marriage, with a marked trend of younger people being in favour (73% among the under-35s, according to polls at the end of last year). Whilst 56% of over-55s are still against the idea, until someone installs postal voting from beyond the grave – perhaps via a seance – politicians are going to want more in common with a slightly more sustainable group of voters. This is pretty much the only reason it’s taking as long as it is, to be blunt; the UK has an ageing population, so the ‘traditional’ entrenched opinions are dying off slower than they used to do.
Never ones to miss a trick, the major parties, even those with a history of being fairly homophobic, are running the rainbow colours up the flagpole to match the public opinion. Older MPs with loud blustery anti-gay marriage views are being quietly sidelined or pushed under metaphorical buses to take the heat off the rest of the party. David Davies is being gagged as we speak until after the next election.
The simple fact is that I don’t believe them, and neither do many voters. I don’t believe that they honestly have a moralistic urge to support the gay rights movement. It looks and sounds to over 80% of voters like Cameron’s Conservatives and the other major parties (if we’re still including the Lib Dems in ‘major parties’) are jumping on the bandwagon to secure votes from young people. They’re hopping onto the trendy issues in order to try and make themselves more relevant and, more importantly, electable. They are pretending to be into it so that we’ll be friends with them, while not completely understanding why gays even want marriage.
That’s the inherent truth of the current political system. Whilst MPs are supposed to represent the country, Parliament is still overwhelming composed of upper class white heterosexual males. They don’t understand why women get angry about rape ‘jokes’, they have no idea why an area inhabited predominantly by ethnic minorities doesn’t want their community centre torn down, and they really don’t understand why two gay people might want no distinction made between their marriage and heterosexual marriage. They know that these groups do these things and, whether they sympathise or not, it’s like watching people arguing in a foreign language – they just can’t understand it. Cameron, Miliband… anyone can stand up and say ‘We believe in gay marriage, it’s about equality and moving forward’, but they’re just repeating what we as a gay community have been shouting about for years. It is neither new nor ground-shatteringly wacky. They’re nodding and regurgitating words they’ve heard ‘those homos’ saying.
Does it matter, though? While it might not mean anything to them, at least the major parties are pushing gay marriage now. Finally, after years of explaining again and again, as though to a particularly slow toddler, they’re understanding that it should be pushed forward and another step for equality taken. It’s a job that needs doing, and I don’t think that we should spend too much time thinking about the motivations of the people doing it. After all, you need a tool to do a job, and I can think of no tools more appropriate for this one than those in government.