Real Lives: You naughty, cheeky boy

Graeme Le Saux was pushed over the edge by homosexual taunts, and who can blame him? But you can call me straight any time and I won't lash out, says gay writer NEIL MIDGELEY

Sick of being branded gay, Graeme Le Saux this week gave fellow footballer Robbie Fowler a swift clip round the head, and suddenly found himself embroiled in controversy. The newspapers discussed the issue on their front pages, and the Professional Footballers' Association practically honoured Le Saux with a hearty round of applause for reclaiming his questioned manhood.

But those of us who are blissfully happy to be known as homosexual are wondering quite what all the fuss is about.

Until last week, Le Saux could have stood proud among the pantheon of gay idols. That come-hither fringe and boyish grin put him, along with David Beckham and Michael Owen, firmly in the premiership of the fantasy shower-sharing league.

I confess to having occasionally tapped his name into the internet in the hope that some innocent fanzine might have posted a picture of him on their website, victoriously shirtless and sweaty, for my shameless misuse. It's not as if Le Saux (married, child) is a closet case, and therefore pathetically vulnerable to Fowler's reported invitation to "Give it to me up the arse". Le Saux obviously has no craving what- ever to deflower Fowler's arse; and Fowler's arse will doubtless be all the happier to be left inviolate. In fact, the gay taunts were just plain daft.

Which exposes the central question - the question that the broadsheet football writers, in all their endless column inches about class warfare and racism, singularly failed to bring up: why is it such an insult for a straight man to be labelled gay?

Those same writers tell us that homosexuality is seen, in footballing circles, as a sign of weakness. That may in part be due simply to ignorance: the only gay story that English soccer has really generated is Justin Fashanu's horribly troubled, and eventually suicidal, decline.

But if the England squad could bring themselves to watch two burly six- foot gays going at each other after a drug-fuelled night at the hard-core club Trade, they would be hard pressed to detect mercy - let alone effeminacy - in their mutual abuse.

To see the real silliness of the Fowler/Le Saux spat, though, imagine that the tables of sexuality were turned. Imagine if yours truly was engaged in a game of football against a team including a mouthy Toxteth lesbian who, throughout the match, taunted me with jibes such as "breeder".

Imagine that things come to a head when, as I'm about to take a pivotal free kick, she opens wide her Umbro-topped legs and loudly exhorts me to "Give it to her." Would I be affronted, running to the referee for protection? Would my (unfortunately non-existent) long-term boyfriend be insulted? Doubtful. More likely, he would already be rethinking our foreplay to make the most of my new-found heterosexual insights.

More enervating still is the fact that Le Saux can find the energy to be offended by words which, to gay men themselves, lost all their sting years ago.

Like Eskimos referring to snow, gays can express dozens of nuances using words which, to an audience of straight outsiders, appear synonymous. In dodging the verbal harpoons of Old Compton Street, the heart of London's pink disctrict, the right choice is crucial. If Robbie Fowler confused the spinelessness of "poof" with the sleaze of "faggot", he would have endless difficulty in making himself understood in Soho.

Even truly homophobic jibes fail to get many of us going. When the posters for a mash-'em-up PlayStation game splashed the words "Southern Poofs" across the lower half of the country, some gays were outraged. But the editorial line of The Pink Paper was that they should forget it.

Nevertheless, not even the hardliners could fail to sympathise with Le Saux's frustration at years of taunting. A taunt, after all, is a taunt, regardless of the semantics of gay politics. Gays know well enough how hard it is to continue to bite your lip when you are provoked day in, day out.

Picture what would happen, though, if every gay man who had ever endured years of homo-phobic sneering marched into his office tomorrow morning and decked his boss with a cheeky elbow to the bonce. Call me chippy, but I doubt the newspapers would be quite as carefully even-handed as they have been this week to plucky little Graeme Le Saux.

It is that media posture which is the real offence. Le Saux is no homophobe, and his tantrum, like all the other gay-tweaked side shows, will soon leave no more visible trace than a black mark on his file at Sports Personality of the Year. Yet pundits will go on assuming that an unfounded assertion of homosexuality is a slur, just as they will wring their hands for outed cabinet ministers and megastar cottagers.

What this culture tells us is that open gays are the ones at fault; that we should have stayed cowering in our closets where Liverpool strikers could more easily have picked on us.

Face it, Graeme, there are worse ways to come up against homophobia than to be presented with a ringside view of Robbie Fowler's buttocks. So do like the faggots have learned to do, and butch up.

News
The guide, since withdrawn, used illustrations and text to help people understand the court process (Getty)
newsMinistry of Justice gets law 'terribly wrong' in its guide to courts
News
Bobbi Kristina Brown with her mother Whitney Houston in 2011
people
News
Starting the day with a three-egg omelette could make people more charitable, according to new research
scienceFeed someone a big omelette, and they may give twice as much, thanks to a compound in the eggs
News
Top Gun actor Val Kilmer lost his small claims court battle in Van Nuys with the landlord of his Malibu mansion to get back his deposit after wallpapering over the kitchen cabinets
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
News
The actress Geraldine McEwan was perhaps best known for playing Agatha Christie's detective, Miss Marple (Rex)
peopleShe won a Bafta in 1991 for her role in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
News
newsPatrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
News
Robert Fraser, aka Groovy Bob
peopleA new show honours Robert Fraser, one of the era's forgotten players
Life and Style
Torsten Sherwood's Noook is a simple construction toy for creating mini-architecture
tech
Sport
David Silva celebrates with Sergio Aguero after equalising against Chelsea
footballChelsea 1 Manchester City 1
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

    £15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

    Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

    £15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

    Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

    £20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

    Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

    £18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

    Day In a Page

    As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

    As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

    Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
    Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

    The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

    Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
    Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
    Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

    Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

    A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
    How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

    How books can defeat Isis

    Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
    Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

    Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

    She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
    The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

    The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

    The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
    French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

    French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

    Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
    Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

    Young carers to make dance debut

    What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
    Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

    Design Council's 70th anniversary

    Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
    Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

    Dame Harriet Walter interview

    The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
    Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

    Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

    Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

    Bill Granger's winter salads

    Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
    England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

    George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

    No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
    Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links