As I write I’m waiting for the Victoria Derbyshire programme where a fellow-member of SPA (Straightpartnersanonymous.com) is due to speak about his experience of being married to someone who subsequently came out as gay. Due to the current polarisation of debate, most situations are like Cold-War Berlin or trouble-torn Northern Ireland; there’s a wall of brick or iron or barbed wire and any attempts to cross the divide will result in your being shot down or hopelessly entangled in spiky arguments. Debates used to be organised this way: on the one side someone speaks for the motion, on the other side someone else speaks against. Then we debate. But lately rather than attempting to shed light on a subject these things are more like boxing matches: in the blue corner we have x, a feminist author and blogger and in the red corner we have y, a right-wing misogynist. Light blue touch-paper and retire immediately. Victory is decided by social media. Seconds away, round one! Ding!
None of this is helpful, none of it sheds any light on the topic under discussion and none of it helps us to understand each other. At best you can say that certain views are aired, but that’s usually as far as it goes. So this morning I’m hoping for something more enlightening in the generally adversarial debate between those who regard gays coming out as victims or heroes, and those who champion the rights of the betrayed and left-behind partners (spoiler alert: I’m on the side of both.) So hold your horses for an hour or so and I’ll let you know how it goes.
In the meantime, I’d like to tell you about my latest metaphor. I find it helpful to ‘explain’ my life in metaphors and today’s helpful image is that of a coastline. A few decades ago I discovered fractals, which teach us that there are in effect no straight lines but only wiggles. A coastline is a perfect example of this because the further you go in, the smaller the wiggles become: as Blake said, even a grain of sand has a world contained within it – and basically, there’s no such thing in nature as a straight line. Even a coast which appears to be straight will have dips and bends and rocks and inlets and those rocks will themselves have dips and inlets and those inlets will have… and so it goes on. So I consider my life at the moment to be not a city divided by a wall but a coastline that we are exploring together, asking where is the sea? how far does it come in? where is high tide? what bends and dips and curves does the coast have? and so on. It’s not a wall with one of us in the East and another in the West and no way through. It’s not a bouquet of barbed wire. It’s a coast.
Aaand – back to Victoria Derbyshire, and wow, I sat through nearly the whole programme before he was on and I have to say it was brilliant, very compassionate and thoughtful. Here‘s the link – and while you’re at it, if you’ve ever watched the VD show could you consider complaining to the BBC about the decision to axe it? Here‘s the link.