Last week, Irish pop singer Stephen Gately died at age 33; preliminary reports point to acute pulmonary edema, or a fluid buildup in the lungs. Gately was young and presumably otherwise healthy, so of course it makes sense for us to reach for an explanation of his terribly untimely death.
Daily Mail columnnist Jane Moir has her theories, and every theory she offers assumes something sleazy. "Whatever the cause of death is," she writes,
it is not, by any yardstick, a natural one. Let us be absolutely clear about this. All that has been established so far is that Stephen Gately was not murdered.
And I think if we are going to be honest, we would have to admit that the circumstances surrounding his death are more than a little sleazy.
What's the sleaze of this particular story? Well, Gately was seen dancing at a nightclub with his husband several hours before his death, and they left the club with another young man, who was at the apartment at the time of Gately's death. It also appears that Gately smoked cannabis in his apartment before he died. None of these, just to be clear, are considered to be contributing factors to Gately's death. Not the presence of the young man, not the marijuana in his system, and not the fact that he was gay.
Moir is clearly one of those ignorant people who are on the prowl for proof of what they assume is true: that gays are sleazy sexual perverts. Every sentence of her column points to exactly this.
Gately was on vacation with his husband of three years, Andrew Cowles, when he died, yet Moir calls his death "lonely." There was no sign of foul play, no evidence that Cowles or the young man they brought to the apartment played any role in Gately's death. No evidence that Gately died of a drug overdose. No evidence that he died of AIDS or any other sexually transmitted disease. No evidence, at least so far, of the slightest bit of sleaze. In fact, Gately's mother insists that her son died from a genetic heart condition. Yet Moir still finds reason to assert that
Another real sadness about Gately's death is that it strikes another blow to the happy-ever-after myth of civil partnerships.
Gay activists are always calling for tolerance and understanding about same-sex relationships, arguing that they are just the same as heterosexual marriages. Not everyone, they say, is like George Michael.
Of course, in many cases this may be true. Yet the recent death of Kevin McGee, the former husband of Little Britain star Matt Lucas, and now the dubious events of Gately's last night raise troubling questions about what happened.
I have a couple-three things to say about this:
1. Nobody is arguing that gay couples are any more likely than straight couples to get this partnership thing right. To be crystal clear, there is no happy-ever myth of civil partnerships. There is only the premise that gay couples have the same rights as straight couples to make an honest, legally recognized go at a committed relationship with the person they love.
2. George Michael hasn't cornered the market on unconventional approaches to sex and relationships. Lots of people of all orientations take an experimental approach to their sexuality. And guess what--when that experimentation takes place between consenting adults, and when all parties involved approach their interactions safely and maturely, it's none of our damned beeswax what they do. And besides,
3. We're well past expecting gay couples to prove they're 'just like' straight couples. It's ignorant and homophobic to presume that for gay couples to "earn" their right to marry they have to prove they're not as perverted, dirty, and disgusting as some straight people think they are. It is, in short, ignorant and homophobic to assume, despite preliminary evidence to the contrary, that when a gay man dies young the circumstances must be sleazy.
Oh oh oh! and one more thing:
4. If we're going to use celebrities as spokespeople for a sexual orientation, then I bring you:
- Roman Polanski (for raping a 13-year-old girl)
- David Duchovny (for uncontrolled sex addiction)
- Jude Law (for cheating on his wife with their child's nanny)
- Woody Allen (for cheating on his partner, Mia Farrow, with Farrow's daughter)
- Charlie Sheen (for multiple documented 'encounters' with prostitutes and a failed marriage as a result of addiction to porn)
Of course nobody would take the actions of these celebrities as proof that all straight people are perverts. And there's no reason to act differently when it comes to gay celebrities.
I'm so goddamned tired of homophobia. I'm tired of people like Jan Moir acting as if hateful, despicable, and cretinous attittues toward homosexuality and gay marriage are perfectly intelligent, thoughtful, and rational. Even if the final reports point to what Moir would consider 'sleaze,' the fact that she didn't need that evidence in the first place tells us exactly what we need to know about her: She's a bigot, pure and simple, and her vile attitude toward human rights is despicable and, thank god, woefully outdated in an increasingly warm, accepting, and tolerant society.