Is Grant Mitchell gay?

What is Grant really doing - where does that hard body come from?

You watch EastEnders? You do? Fine. Here's my question. On your marks, get set, groan: is Grant Mitchell gay? Yes, yes, I know. We are, after all, implying the unthinkable about Grunt, the one who says he can't get over Sharon (forgetting that he once did just that no problem). Grunt, who made Michelle pregnant with just one look;. Grunt, whose flat forehead furrowed when he discovered that a G-spot wasn't actually Cockney slang for a monetary unit (altogether: "He hit me for a monkey, but all I had on me was a G-spot"). Grunt, whose lips move when other people are reading. Grunt, whose sole advantage is that he's fictional (don't you adore that in a man?), so you can't be offended when he sneers at queers.

I'm not asking because I want Grunt on the team - please, every time he throws on a suit it's like he's auditioning for a PG Tips ad - but because the gay personals tell me I'm seriously out of synch: "Grant Mitchell clone wanted", "My fantasy is Grant Mitchell", "Friends say I resemble Grant Mitchell!" (Margaret Mitchell, surely?). Read those again. There's not just desire - the"give me a primitive man" thing is about unreconstructed rough trade, traditionally, and mistakenly, seen as somehow more "authentic" and therefore sexier - there's identification. It's not merely wanting to be with, it's also about wanting to be, and already being ("Friends say I resemble ... "). That's the surprise. Hence the seemingly perverse proposition - is Grunt Mitchell, the real man on the show, gay?

Causes for suspicion: he's coded gay. Or, at least, he's wearing this decade's predominant look. Shaven head, baby face, hard body. The boy- man thing as exemplified by Marky Mark, another gay pin-up/roll-in-the- hay model who turned out to be a homophobe. If this is identification, it's time to stop and consider that telling psychological phrase "identifying with the oppressor". Or maybe not. Maybe it's more confused than that. Maybe in these times of instant, multifarious cultural merger, gay men have adopted a bruised and artfully confused "straight" masculinity for their own purposes and are now misreading the mirror of their own longing.

Could be. For instance, a friend believes Grunt is passing for straight because his manner suggests "he's in some sort of secret pain". Yeah, OK. But what if it's wind? As if any self-respecting queen would care. The giddy observe Grunt blatantly attempting to suppress his feelings (an occupational hazard for most gay men) and correctly surmise that the blatancy is meant to transform the "private" effort into "public" invitation. Drowning and waving: we know a come-on when we see it. And what could be more potent, more alluring than the dream that you could be the someone who releases, nay liberates, the inarticulate Grunt and finally makes him mouth those three special words: "Brace yourself bitch."

Still, this is hardly worth decoding. Easy meat. Chew on this: what is Grunt really doing in secret? Think about it - where does that hard body come from? Have we ever seen Grunt on the treadmill, pumping iron, hot in the sauna, cool in the (whimper) showers? No, we haven't. Why no visual representation? A gym is a gym is a gym, isn't it? Not if it's "Up West" in, say, Soho, in Old Compton Street, otherwise known as the Emerald City, as - go on, spit it out - Queer Central. If Grunt has been sneaking off and copping off, is it any wonder that bruvver Phil hasn't been asked to join his sibling for a set of sit-ups, though, as every viewer knows, Phil and Grunt share everything - even Sharon - and Phil desperately needs to work on that tummy (remember Twins, that Schwarzenegger/De Vito comedy where Arnie got all the fabulous DNA and Danny inherited all the crap? Grunt and Phil enact the same story as tragedy).

Ah, Phil. Could Grunt's appalling relationships with the fair sex - though fair isn't a word automatically evoked by Sharon and Michelle (mind you, neither is sex) - have anything to do with the fact that Grunt has taken the biblical injunction to love your brother into the realms of the pathological? Frankly, the EastEnders writers missed a trick when they implanted that recent pseudo-incestuous sub-plot between Daddy David and daughter Bianca. Sharp idea, wrong couple. As the break-up and reconciliation following the Sharon and Phil affair amply proved, the real love story situated within that particular Bermuda triangle is between the Brothers Grim. Grunt and Phil are the biggest homoerotic event since David and Jonathan. And as neither can bear to admit their emotions, it makes perfect sense for them to sleep with the same woman. If they can't share their bodies, they can at least share a body.

What did I warn about projection? Really. Let's be clear. Just because Grunt looks gay, behaves gay and bonds better with boys than girls, doesn't mean that what you see is what you get.

None of the above can be taken as proof positive, as evidence that Grunt is anything other than a Neanderthal with Helen Keller's dress sense.

Indeed, the only detail to give anyone pause is the Mitchells' mother. Well, I say mother, but really I mean drag queen. What the hell: if you are gay, same difference.

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