I started writing this late at night, but couldn’t finish. Frankly, I was in a bit of a state of shock. Still am. I’ve just read, and re-read, the religious commentator and Christian music star Vicky Beeching’s interview with Patrick Strudwick, in which she comes out as a gay.
Her story is extraordinary, containing a deep religious conviction and upbringing, as well as huge musical success in Bible belt America. You should read the interview a couple of times to let it sink in. It’s taken me a while to fully absorb the enormity of what Beeching has done.
Last week, Northern Irish investigative journalist Lyra McKee wrote a heart wrenching letter to her 14 year old self, telling her that coming out will be fine, and that it really does get better.
Not so long ago, leading lady Ellen Page came out, as did England Ladies Football Captain Casey Stoney.
All these women are exceptionally brave. They all make a difference.
There are still very few gay women public figures. While, thankfully, young gay men have had an increasing number of role models to look up to for a while, young women coming to terms with their sexuality have not.
It’s hard to describe to someone who hasn’t come out what it feels like. Even if logically you know it will probably all be fine, your mind plays tricks on you, and you convince yourself otherwise. You fear that nothing will ever be the same again once you let that genie out the bottle. As Beeching’s heartbreaking story proves, keeping everything bottled up is terrible for your health and wellbeing.
Seeing successful gay women in the media, hearing their stories and reassurances that it will be ok, can undoubtedly help young women going through that process.
I’d have loved to have had read some of those stories when I was 14, and realising that I was gay. I’d have loved to see fabulous, talented gay women on TV and in films, or read books and articles by them. 13 odd years ago there was barely anyone for my peers and I to look to up to.
In the end you end up clinging desperately on to the fictional depictions, normally by straight women, of what they think your life is and should be. It helps, but it’s not the same as seeing real women you can relate to.
The result is you end up taking far too long to be yourself, consequently losing life and love. It’s impossible to give yourself properly to someone else if you haven’t come to terms with who you are.
Religion is clearly the major factor in Beeching’s story, and I suspect many others too. I can’t particularly relate to that, although I do remember sitting in a group discussion about homosexuality at a Jewish youth group wishing the world would swallow me up.
Growing up in Jewish culture meant that I always knew that I was meant to do was get married to a nice Jewish boy. Realising you actually wanted to be with a girl instead rather complicates that!
What all this demonstrates, I hope, is just how important that interview Vicky Beeching gave today is, and perhaps she can help the church become a more liberal and tolerant organisation.
Either way, those women in public life who come are not doing it for attention, they are doing it because it matters.