I watched a programme on tele tonight called ’50 Shades of Gay’. I think it’s part of a wider BBC series on the theme of gay decriminalisation and gay history in the UK. The presenter, Rupert Everett, visited different gay people around the UK and chatted to older people about their experiences. Jeez, it opened my eyes to how gay people were treated and gay culture. I wish there were more programmes like this and more openly gay actors from the UK, more openly gay people in the entertainment industry full stop. More roles models for gay kids!
The first thing that struck me was how often he used the word ‘bent’. Not sure if this came up during our Let Us Eat Cake conversation maps, if not then it definitely has to go on there because I’ve heard this a lot in the past. When he used the word it made me uncomfortable. And thinking more about it, I thought about the definition. So I googled it. Obviously the simplest reason for using the word is because it’s the opposite of ‘straight’ in the sense of heterosexual. It was the synonyms of the adjective for bent that I found interesting.
Some of them – like ‘twisted’, ‘crooked’, ‘deformed’, ‘irregular’ etc. – have been used to insult gay people in the past to hurt them. This idea that we are not ‘fit-for-purpose’, ‘a round peg’, ‘a mistake of nature’, ‘deformed’ or ‘unnatural’… Like our parents should go back to God and ask for a new child using the Sale and Supply of Goods Act!
The second definition that popped out was the British informal use of the word to mean dishonest or corrupt, like ‘a bent cop’. With synonyms like ‘corruptible’, ‘fraudulent’, ‘criminal’, ‘lawless’, ‘villainous’ etc., this reminded me of some of the stuff we chatted about during our meetings. How language is important, how we can reclaim it, how it can be used, but how it can also be abused. I’m thinking I could use the word for my Gay Blood staged photo theme….. Would a caption like ‘Bent Blood’ be offensive??
One last thing that a gent on the programme said made me think too;
‘Is it better now that those people in society who are truly homophobic feel they can’t express themselves in public or they would come under fire… or was it better back then when they would shout and call you a faggot from across the street? At least back then you knew who to avoid’.
He makes an interesting point.