So So Gay recently interviewed former The X Factor finalist Aiden Grimshaw to discuss his stellar new album. Imagine my surprise, then, when I read a subsequent interview in which he stated his desire to avoid following in his fellow alumni’s footsteps by releasing ‘crappy, gay songs’.
Aiden Grimshaw is the thinking man’s Olly Murs – and in an age that seems to celebrate the brainless, it is perhaps therefore not surprising that he is flirting with the outskirts of the Top 40 rather than its upper echelons. After releasing ‘Is This Love’, one of the finest, most nuanced pop songs of the year, and having spent his stint on of The X Factor in 2010 looking more like a complete artist than any of his fellow competitors, it’s clear that the man knows his own mind.
I thought about arguing that Grimshaw is almost right; that the gay community does lap up awful, identikit pop-by-numbers songs – but that’s true of most modern consumers, gay or otherwise. On the contrary, most of the pop connoisseurs I know are gay and I’d wager that there were plenty of gay people involved in the production of Grimshaw’s album, its promotion and the genesis of his new look too. So do we honestly believe that Grimshaw said what he did thinking ‘music bought by or released by gay people is crap’? Don’t be ridiculous.
The use of the term ‘gay’ as a synonym for ‘bad’ remains pervasive across all but the most politically-correct segments of society, but it has now been used to describe so many things that are quite obviously not gay that I no longer think of the word as a slur on my sexuality at all. And you know what? That’s alright.
I say this as an educated, self-aware, proud gay man who not infrequently uses the adjective ‘gay’ in the negative himself. While I prefer a good, heartfelt, four-letter expletive, I would be lying if I said the word never crosses my lips in a moment of frustration. I feel no guilt about some supposed ‘internalised homophobia’ that some detractors will doubtlessly say I harbour, for one simple reason: I am gay, and I’m totally comfortable with that.
There are many things that the 21st century has done for the gay community – and in fact minorities more generally – in terms of what is and is not acceptable language. Some changes have been more successful and, indeed, welcome than others (particularly the bewildering reclamation of the term ‘queer’, which still makes my skin crawl), and long may terms that are considered vulgar by the masses continue to be eradicated. I also do not subscribe to the school of thinking that we, as gay people, have the exclusive right to the use the term in this way as it is ‘ours’. We strive for equality in everything we do, so why should we have exclusive access to any language to the exclusion of others?
There is unquestionably a bigger conversation to be had on the topic of how LGBT people ought be referred in general discussion, but this isn’t something I feel confident expanding on here. Discussing the topic with friends, it’s evident my feelings on the topic are somewhat conflicted, as while I am ‘gay’ and ‘a gay man’, I still flinch when ‘a gay’ is used to described me – like it’s my single defining feature – while the consensus among the group is that ‘a lesbian’ is a totally acceptable way to describe a gay woman. A group of armchair experts with no gay woman in our midst; who are we to speak for them?
And this is my point: it’s okay to be offended by what Grimshaw said, but please do not take it upon yourself to partake in a crusade on behalf of the entire gay community. There are many of us who do not need a groveling and obvious apology from his record label’s press office to be comfortable in the knowledge that he is not a homophobe.