In The South

OPINION: Craig’s Thoughts – why are we so nasty to each other?

Craig Hanlon-Smith March 25, 2018

We’re happy for you. When you’re ‘masc’. Or come on in. It’s oh so shallow by Craig Hanlon-Smith @craigscontinuum

Russell Tovey announces his marriage and receives almost no Tom Daley-style vitriol from the gay community. It couldn’t be because we would all serious make a play for his rugby playing beau Steve Brockman, could it?

And so another openly gay celebrity has announced an impending nuptial to their current beau. In late February, Russell Tovey revealed plans to marry his boyfriend, Steve Brockman. The established gay press were all over it in no time, celebrating Mr Tovey’s engagement and referring to his partner, Brockman, as ‘his rugby playing boyfriend’. Social media went nuts and people were initially lovely. Too many to quote directly here but genuinely pleased hoards of gays and Tovey fans celebrating their love and future commitment. Hurrah.

Of course, as the day progressed, perhaps only a few moments as real life minutes equate to social media months, a few messages delved their toes into cheekier and slightly suggestive waters, and then some were downright horny. Openly describing where exactly they’d like to sit in a Tovey/Brockman ‘sandwich’ which is a polite homosexual word for ‘hot sweaty f**k orgy’. The rampantly determined did not hold back and despite not actually having an invitation to interject into the forthcoming marriage, this did not appear to bother most. And I’m assuming from the messages that I read, the grandmothers of these young men are not following them on Twitter, or perhaps they are and I’m just an old-fashioned girl.

Of course, only a few days earlier, yet more gay celebs had revealed their latest relationship developments and posted a picture of their unborn child courtesy of a surrogate mother, only the reaction both online and in the press had been a little different. This. perhaps, should not have been a surprise, as so it had been the case when Mr Tom Daley and his husband Dustin Lance Black first announced their intention to marry earlier last year.

Now, when the Daily Mail plays its expected nasty card following the announcement of Daley and Black’s impending delivery, no one is surprised. Just as the algorithmic Facebook feeds us the nonsense it knows we like from taking part in those online quizzes, the Daily Mail has a responsibility to its heartless readers. And as they’re all gleefully planting tiny union jacks into their crumbling sandcastles, Richard Littlejohn hangs the gays out upon the battlements. The Daily Mail has a fanbase and they want to hear all the hits, and encouraging homophobic vitriol is their multi-million best seller. Bring it on Littlejohn, we expect it. What I wasn’t prepared for, was the gay male twitterati joining in.

And so I asked the question: Why? Why from (some) gay men, such unpleasantness and use of violent language towards other gay men, celebrating their life together, marriage and now expected first child? I received many, many responses: ‘Oh we’re tired of them. They’re over exposed’; ‘If you put yourself out there you should expect it’; ‘They’re smug’; ‘The old one (he’s 43) has been in porn and lied about it’; ‘Daley sends nudes to other men’. The last one is borderline ridiculous as half of Brighton is up to that after a couple of shandies of a Tuesday, but I’m not sure I see any of them as a reasonable justification for vicious name calling that resembles bullying and intimidation, albeit from the safety of a smartphone. But there we have the uncomfortable explanation for it. Bullying and intimidation.

It’s common behavioural understanding that the bullied become the bullies and much of the gay male community is likely to have experienced bullying in some form and in many cases throughout their lives. The bullying domino effect is a spiral of catastrophic but almost inevitable behaviour, and our ability to make ourselves feel better about our perceived weaknesses by screaming obscenities at others is both a horrific and highly ineffective human recovery action. In short; clever boy for being nasty with your smartphone but you won’t feel better in the long run. It is, however, likely that the truth is much more complex and perhaps uglier than that.

The response to Russell Tovey’s engagement announcement was mainly positive and sexually suggestive so why such a disparity between types of gays? Could it be that Tovey’s rugby playing boyfriend persona, however distant and unobtainable, plays into our masculine ideal of how we would ourselves like to be received, perceived and desired?

Tom Daley is (perhaps, and I’m not endorsing such a view) an irritatingly hairless camp queen and his screenwriting boyfriend all velvet tuxedos and artistic flair – we actively seek to distance ourselves from this type of homo. And the morning after this year’s Oscar ceremony, US Winter Olympian Adam Rippon, slated on social media for his harness/tuxedo look by hoards of gay men. His supposed brothers. Rippon has done more for gay male visibility in six weeks than most can achieve in a lifetime, but perhaps competitive figure skating just isn’t tough enough to satisfy our masculine ideals.

I get it. Diving, screenwriting and skating in sequins is hardly muddy jock straps in the changing rooms. Steve Brockman is more likely to come straight off the sports field all over-developed thighs and bounding testosterone and feeds into a perception of what we really want to be. The type of gay that does not appear to be gay at all.

Gay men of all ages… ask yourself; have you ever looked at another homosexual man and thought ‘gays like that give gays like me a bad name’? And then whatever the behaviours we observe in the appointed pariah, we seek to distance ourselves from as much as possible. That level of finger-pointing, name calling and social distancing is likely to come from a form of self-loathing that is rooted deeply in those years of aggression and hostility that we were ourselves in the firing line of.

Craig Hanlon-Smith
Craig Hanlon-Smith

It’s without question desperately sad that when we perhaps needed it most, there was no one there to give us a hug and tell us that it would all be okay. But let’s not take any anger at our years of lost comforts on to the platforms of social media, and attack others for celebrating, and yes, showing off their flamboyant happiness. We may be tired of them, they may be over exposed, they may be smug, they may have had secret careers in pornography that they now deny, and they may, despite being married, be sending nudes to other men outside of their relationship. If you have something to say, say it. But make sure your own blotting paper is as clean as a whistle before you throw ink. And whatever you say, be nice. Be nice. It really is that simple.