My poor Daddy. All those years spent adhering to strictly defined gender roles. Honing his masculinity by apprenticing in practical jokes and aggression, training as a wrestler, impregnating a petite Catholic woman, killing that hamster with a shovel and refusing to cook until all the kids had left home and he could be Plumstead’s answer to Michel Roux. You should have seen Dad’s face when my 15 year old brother announced he was spending a Friday night indoors watching Diva Las Vegas, and he realised that a potential third of his five offspring was a raging homosexual. Life just ain’t fair.
He has got better at accepting the news of his spawn’s depravity though. My sister had a long, drawn-out period of parental incredulity. My father reacted to her announcement that she’d dumped her boyfriend for liasons with lots of girlies by spending several months referring to her sexuality as a ‘corridor of uncertainty’. When my brother came out (by mincing into the living room wearing a pair of sequinned leggings and a T-shirt with the slogan ‘I’m looking for Mr Big’, uttering the words ‘this is what I’m wearing to gay pride’), Dad reacted more stoically – he lowered his paper, looked my bro from head to foot, and said ‘good son, I hope you get done up the arse.’
According to my extensive research (which comprised reading the first three results of a search on Google) only between 1.5% and 3% of the UK population are gay. Like all people without much knowledge of maths I’m a bit sceptical about most statistics. My default response to any survey results that are a bit suss (such as the one about 90% of women being unable to climax through penetration alone) is ‘well, they didn’t ask me.’ The gay one though. That has to be a colossal underestimation, meaning as it does that my family ratio of homos constitutes some 20 to 40 times more than the average ratio in the rest of the population. This simply cannot be correct. It defies all logic. I mean, our parents did everything by the book (the literal book that my mum purchased when pregnant with me in the 80s, which has a bit about how to prevent your bubbas growing into raging gender-benders): staying together, avoiding overexposure to the mother/underexposure to the father, making sure our clothes and haircuts conformed to boy/girl stereotypes (shaven heads and football shirts, pigtails and pretty paisley dresses); until my sister Holly asked for a crop like my brother one winter and my uncle spent an entire Christmas thinking that my family had adopted a little boy called Colin. What larks.
Anyway, the fact that my siblings have decided to brush aside convention and do what ever the hell they fancy is great news for me. There are no tedious comparisons from the parents or guilt trips about when I’m going to marry and reproduce, because in having kids who broke the rules they have witnessed just how freeing it is to NOT do the conventional thing and to indulge your desires instead. That’s right: Daddy and Ma would certainly not have spent that Wednesday night in September 2011 emptying the spirits cupboard, doing Destiny’s Child and Harper Valley PTA skits with their five children and falling down the stairs had we gone the conventional route. They might have woken the baby. Which, as I can atest from my own childhood (which was full to bursting with babes) is a very bad thing.
On the rare days when I do bemoan my single status my mother shakes her head in disbelief. ‘How many married people do you know who’ve got what you got?’, she says (by which I presume she means youthful unsullied looks, an underpaid job they love, freedom to spend all their wages on OPI nail varnish, and a flat full of books and dirty crockery that nobody is in any hurry to wash up), ‘what do you want to be married for?’
Also, being the attention-seeker I am, the gay sibs thing has meant that I’ve had to push myself hard to achieve. Rebellious recreational drug use does not garner much notice when your brother is singing a note perfect rendition of Roberta Flack’s Killing Me Softly, dressed as Poison Ivy out of Batman. I doubt having a horde of teeny children would do much to overshadow that either, so I’ve had to cash in on my intellectualism and extend my vocabulary. Yes sis, Dad might stare, awestruck, like a gormless, open-mouthed gargoyle when you do kick-ups after a few beers in the garden, but who has a spot reserved on the wall for pictures of her third graduation? That’s right: me. Suck it.
Who knows, if my parents hadn’t cocked up their life’s work of raising a socially acceptable family so utterly maybe I’d be married now. Maybe I’d have a son, and a little house with a massive mortgage. Thank god for gay siblings then, who show me every day what a glorious luxury it is to live as you are, and fuck convention right in the eyeball (or, you know, wherever).