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Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Sing, if you’re glad to be “gay”

Congratulations to John Barrowman, whose single “I Made It Through The Rain” is the highest new entry (at Number 14) in the UK’s current official Top 40 singles chart. See this report from the Doctor Who News Page.

And it’s thanks, apparently, to DJ Chris Moyles, who has been championing the single through his BBC Radio 1 Breakfast Show and Twitter posts. On his Twitter page, Moyles said, “If you buy it .. it WILL chart Top 5 and I get a night at his house wearing pyjamas..!!”

Never short of a word or two, Barrowman is a very popular actor, singer, dancer and television and radio presenter, perhaps best known as Captain Jack Harkness, the omnisexual character he’s played in Doctor Who and Torchwood since 2005. He’s also an out-and-proud gay man, one of an all-too-depressingly small number of gay celebrities who actually regularly stand up for gay rights in public!

Often associated with one particular word, Moyles – also popular – is accused by many of being a homophobe.

In 2006, his live on-air rejection of a mobile-phone ringtone because it was “gay” – “I don’t want that one, it’s gay” – led to complaints to the BBC from listeners arguing that the use of the word “gay” in this context was homophobic. Perhaps not surprisingly, but rather pathetically, the BBC dismissed the complaints, saying that Moyles was simply keeping up with developments in English-language usage:

The word “gay”, in addition to being used to mean “homosexual” or “carefree”, is often now used to mean “lame” or “rubbish”. In describing a ringtone as “gay”, the DJ was conveying that he thought it was “rubbish” rather than “homosexual”. Moyles was not being homophobic.

The BBC panel did, however, acknowledge that the use of the word “gay” in a derogatory sense could cause offence to some listeners, and counselled caution on its use. But that’s as far as they went.

The DJ's defenders point out that his producer at Radio 1, Aled Haydn Jones, who has worked with him for a number of years, is openly gay and that the he enjoys close friendships with a number of out-gay men, including the comedian Alan Carr, the singer Will Young and Scott Mills, a fellow Radio 1 DJ.

Of course, that once-high-profile homophobe, the now-deceased Mary Whitehouse, also claimed to have gay male friends. According to her, they shared her love of knitting! And, isn’t it just a little bit pathetic to see a middle-aged man trying to act as a hip teenager?

Moyles, himself, claims that he’s just being humorous. He may well believe that but, up and down the country, there are schoolkids – gay, straight, confused – who, I suspect, are being hurt by his behaviour. It’s easy for an adult in a privileged position to dismiss this as harmless fun. It may also be easier to be out and proud if you’re an adult. However, if you’re a young person struggling to come to terms with the fact that you’re different, in a world where people assume you’re straight and an atmosphere where the word “gay” is used in a derogatory way, it's a very different story.

I wonder if the not-so-slim Moyles would think it OK if people insisted on using the word “fat” when wishing to describe something as “lame” or “rubbish”?

I don’t know what Barrowman’s view on all this is but, presumably, he’s grateful to Moyles for his support. Speaking on Sunday’s Radio 1 Chart Show, he said:

The album was released in November last year, and you think, OK, it’s had its life and, if it sells something beyond that, you’re really chuffed and happy and pleased, but you do not expect something like this to happen, for a song to go into the chart.

Moyles might like using the word “gay” but, perhaps at that pyjama party he's so looking forward to, Barrowman will take the opportunity to have a different word in his ear.

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