This is why…

This is why, in our privileged and educated society, it is our duty to make it okay for those who are not so fortunate, to make it safer for them to be who they are without compromising their identity. This is why anyone gay in power and in the public eye, in sports and where they are considered to be role models, must think of others, as so many already do and put themselves out there, on the line, every day.

11 thoughts on “This is why…

  1. You are of course right in what you say, but we are not all inherently courageous, making choices which at the time seem correct, but ultimately turn out to be wrong and in some cases disastrous, digging a hole, so deep, it feels impossible to climb out.
    I dont fit into any of the categories you mention, but when I decided to finally come out, I was more frightened of the reactions of my fellow gay peers than I was from my family and friends. This is certainly not an excuse not come out, but maybe, in the grand scheme of things; if I, as a mere minion, could worry about the reception from fellow gays, then others in the public eye could possibly feel the same way.
    As I said, I don’t disagree, but it’s not always black and white.


    1. Hi Helen, thanks so much for your honesty and response. I am aware that it is not always black and white. I wasn’t born courageous, it took time and the necessity to stand up for what I believe in, through difficult times. I’m not a celebrity, or famous or in the public eye, neither was Stella when we met 21 1/2 years ago when we met. We have always believed in being who you are and yes, everyone has the right to make choices of their own, but I do feel, as a society we have a responsibility towards those who are not safe, who live in constant fear, at home or abroad. At home we can at least try and make a change, and often we do, abroad is another story. It took my parents 9 years to meet and accept Stella, it was a very difficult time, but we never gave up. In the end everything was okay, and now they are fantastically good friends, they call her their third daughter, but it wasn’t always so, and she wasn’t always in the public eye. The reason I mention celebrities, and the famous and those in the sporting world and in the public eye, is because the public listen to them and look up to them, and they are role models – and should use their fame and position in society to make things better – some do and some do not. You may call yourself a ‘mere minion’, I would not. I think we can all make change happen, no matter how small or how big, but it takes courage to do so, and it is scary. But I would rather put myself on the line every day, every time I come out, to right wing, homophobic taxi drivers, or my wonderful religious Muslim dry cleaner, who sent us flowers for our civil partnership and changed because of us. We can all make change happen, but it is within the individual’s power to do so. Sometimes our peers give us the hardest time, maybe because we make them feel bad, or because it brings up stuff for them. People like people to be the same as them. If you live in a world where everyone is silent, and then someone speaks, those who are silent feel discomfort. It’s the way it is. I would rather never be silent, because a voice should be heard, and we all need to speak out loud, otherwise change can never be given a chance. All the best, Shelley

      1. Thank you.
        Mighty oaks from little acorns grow.
        Whenever I use my little voice, which I do often, I will now remember that a lot of little voices make a loud noise.

  2. Hi Shelley,
    It’s funny you mention in your post about the importance of ‘famous’ etc. people to stand up for the ones who are not so daring, or probably would be less noticed if they were to speak up in public. I was sort of stalking your wife Stella about this topic after having watched the Newsnight programme. At a certain point Stella blurted out to me, she was fed up to have to do all this, while ‘we’ were waiting for people to do it for us and only afterwards get the courage to come out etc… I ended up disagreeing with wat she said, but adding to it that she is probable right, but it’s not all black and white. If it took you girls 9 yrs to get accepted by your parents, I think you might understand that there are still people on this planet who cannot understand that we are not what they expect us to be. Certain things will never change, and as long as those things don’t change, there will always be some people left who can’t do much more than merely look up to people like you…
    Take care, karen.

    1. Hi Karen

      Thanks for this. I think everyone assumes it is easy for us, that we are naturally courageous (see response below), that it comes easily to us to speak out and say what we feel – it doesn’t. We work at it every day, we are nervous sometimes and worry sometimes, but if we didn’t try and make it better for others, you and I wouldn’t be having this conversation. I absolutely understand that there are people who cannot understand that we are not what they expect us to be, but then again, sometimes they expect one thing and get something far better than they could ever have imagined. We don’t and won’t know until we try. Dialogue helps, and being together helps. Part of the problem, for me at least, is that we all, as people, have assumptions about people, we all judge people, by their race, religion, sexuality, and mostly, we are wrong about what lies beneath the skin and the colour and the faith and sexuality. Which is why I say it is better to be who we are and risk getting hurt, because only then can change be given a chance. I went to a family wedding on Friday, my cousin (brought up Jewish), married an American (from a very Christian family). Jew and Christian were side by side, and I spent quite a lot of time talking to the bride’s very Christian aunt and her daughter (keen on writing), who were interested in my work, and they loved my recommendation to see the manuscript dept at the British Library. Stella was also introduced to them, and when they realised we were together, there was a little surprise, an “oh” and then they continued. I’m sure their heads were working overtime, and whether they dislike us now or not, we made change possible by being who we were. I strongly believe that by being together, sitting side by side, talking, arguing, change can happen. You mention certain things never changing, but change doesn’t happen by chance or miracle, it happens because people speak out and stand up and it’s in our hands to make that change, and if we don’t speak out, then change will never happen. There are people who look up to you, as you look up to me, as I look up to my role models. We all count, we can all help each other, by living side by side and breaking down the barriers rather than constructing new ones. Unless one wants to be separate, but I don’t. I want to be part of my society, which I give to and take from and live in. Rant over!

      1. Thanks for the rant 😉
        I agree mostly with what you say, but 😉
        I am pretty much sure that you know, and if you don’t, I need to enlighten you, that in certain religions it is just not excepted that a person act on their gay feelings. The ones who are honest to themselves will acknowledge that people can be gay. But that’s how far it goes. They will show you places in the Bible where it’ll tell you the sexual acts between same sex are forbidden. Now if you grew up in a world that thinks that way, you have two options: a) leaving behind the religion and with that the secure surrounding of family, friends, jobs etc… There are people who have done it before and have managed to build a new life far away from the cocoon they were brought up.
        b) to remain inside that cocoon and give up on genuinely being happy, living with secrets, etc…
        Must we always find the easier way in life? I cannot answer this question. You choose the hard way be it for the opposite reason. I think whatever you choose to do will be hard. In the end it is I think, about weighing up what is more important to your individual self. Every situation is different. And no one should judge others for choices they make or how they are.
        To get back to your example of the incident on that wedding. When you opened up to them and felt their reaction, it could be you shrug it off you because they are ‘just’ friends. I am sure you couldn’t feel that way if this reaction came from someone much closer to you, i.e. your parents. I am very certain you must have been devastated all those years your parents didn’t approve of your wife. Again, you chose to go the hard way, but either way would have been hard. In the end, you are lucky they came to their senses. But not all parents do. Is it worth ‘loosing’ them for your happiness. That last question is not nescessarily addressed to you ;-).
        But as long as we’re alive there is always hope… Things can change. Not everything. But one never knows. And as long as there is hope their is life ;-). Thanks for taking the time to write!
        Have a wonderful day!

      2. Hi Karen

        I was brought up a Jew, though not orthodox or extreme, but I was expected to marry a Jewish man. I married a Catholic Buddhist! My Jewish family have never shunned me (my parents (and to a lesser extent my late sister) didn’t make it easy for 9 years, but the rest of my close family were always wonderful), and we are always invited to everything together, and everyone loves Stella and respects her. I do have a very orthodox cousin in Israel, but I wouldn’t see him anyway, last time I was there and hugged him (this is before I met Stella) he told me off, and said don’t do it again, because he is a man and I am woman and I might be unclean (I would love to tell him that I am beyond that now!). I haven’t been to Israel since before I met Stella, so we haven’t put into practice an actual meeting, apart from those relatives who have come here and have ALWAYS been lovely to both of us. My father is a middle eastern man, and as soon as he accepted it, he expected everyone else to. Though as I say, it took 9 years and they were hard and sad and I cried a lot. I think religions make all sorts of concessions when they want to, but ultimately, it depends what is more important to you, religion or happiness. If you cannot find a way to have them coexist, you have to choose. I don’t for one moment think that is easy to do, and I do understand that all families are not like mine, but of late, I have learned only to respect those religious people who are really fair and open and see beyond what is written on their biblical pages. My late uncle was very religious, and he accepted Stella, they actually got on really well. Stella’s knowledge of all things old and new testament is vast and impressive. A few days before my uncle died, he gave me a piece of paper with writing on it and said, give this to Stella and see if she knows where it’s from. That’s the kind of relationship they had. It is hard, but everyone has a choice. I chose to come out and deal with the hardship of my actions for 9 years. But I would never have done it any other way. The relief of not living a lie was easier than pretending and keeping everyone else happy. What about your happiness? Life is too short. All the best – Shelley

  3. Religion is not important to me because of what it is. It is something that has overtaken my life because I have been brought up extremely religious and the people who surround me in this religion are all I have in this world.The religion I have been brought up in honestly think that being gay is terribly wrong. Personally I have stopped believing ages ago, but outwardly still pretend to be very religious…all because I’m afraid that when I leave all this behind there won’t be anybody or anything else out there for me. I will be shunned by my family, parents and kids including, friends and all the people I now work for. So what is happiness? And in such cases what is the price you would have to pay for this ‘happiness’. I cannot look anyone in the eye and tell them honestly I’m happy with my life as it is now. But yet, how many people CAN say that, I wonder…
    Take care, karen.

  4. Hi Shelley
    This comment bears no relation to your post but couldn’t work out how to contact you!
    I received Twelve Days as a present and absolutely loved it. Thanks for a good read.

  5. Oh Gosh don’t expect me to cite the Bible or any holy book for that matter ’cause I haven’t -as I shamefully admit- read any of them. I read the law and that’s partly my religion but I apologise for I digress.

    My point is this: You’re courageous. It doesn’t come easy that’s for sure. But why should any gay person feel the obligation to lift such a heavy weight as openly demanding public acceptance and equality?

    Don’t get me wrong. I am with you on demanding things to better the society.

    But don’t you think (watch as I refrain from using the word feel -recently watched the Iron Lady, you see ;)- that what you rightfully campaign for is a strictly private matter?

    Thank you!

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