Ben Summerskill: Pink, proud – and now recognised with posh gongs

Share
Related Topics

Being made a Companion of Honour, as Sir Ian McKellen was earlier this year, is a bit like having a bidet installed. Most people can't quite explain what it's all about. But they know it's dead posh.

Alongside the Oscar nominee as a gay knight of the realm now sits the founder of BMI and the chairman of the Local Government Association. It's a touching acknowledgement by Britain's honours system that perhaps gongs shouldn't only go to homosexuals when they're entertainers. And it's also an indication of how gay people are – gradually – becoming part of Britain's cultural mainstream.

The past five years has seen growing public acceptance of Britain's 3.6 million lesbians and gay men. It may well have been caused by the normalising effect of civil partnership. Millions now acknowledge that the dull domesticity of so many isn't a monopoly of heterosexuality. But it's difficult to regard your gay uncle as entirely odd if he enjoys exactly the same warm Cava, tastelessly tiered fruitcake and dodgy disco on his special day as your straight aunt.

Debating the decriminalisation of homosexuality four decades ago, Lord Montgomery of Alamein told the House of Lords that no homosexual had ever served under him during the war. The old soldier must be twitching in his celestial mess. Forty years on, openly gay soldiers will next month march in London's Pride parade for the first time in full uniform.

These are ordinary men and women doing an extraordinary job. Many have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. But if you're expected to lay down your life at work, whatever you might think of the cause, it's nice to have your innate difference acknowledged by your employer.

Such changes, some incremental and some massive, are marked by the visibility of more lesbian and gay people in the public domain. Yet despite the progress demonstrated vividly by this year's Pink List, there remains a pink plateau in many careers too. Not one FTSE 100 company, major university, local authority or government department has an openly gay boss in 2008.

In the Lords, there is no Conservative, Liberal Democrat or crossbench peer able to inform debate with the lived experience of being openly gay in modern Britain.

And some ordinary lives remain blighted by prejudice too. Research soon to be published by Stonewall will show disturbing levels of hate crime being committed against gay people. That residual prejudice still needs to be tackled.

But it's unthinkable that 20, or even perhaps 10 years ago a home secretary would have welcomed the research and promised to take action, as Jacqui Smith will do on Thursday. If the news is reported on the Today programme, it may be read by one of the most glistening stars in the Pink List's constellation. Britain's establishment – from the Archbishop of Westminster to the Duke of Edinburgh – now wakes up with Evan Davis in the morning. And he's unembarrassedly gay.

If he stays at Today, the BBC's former economics editor will no doubt turn into the national treasure he deserves to become. Meanwhile, what better retort to fuddy-duddy folk could there be than radio critics suggesting, as some have, that Davis might – whisper it softly – actually be rather better at it all than some of his harrumphing heterosexual colleagues?

Ben Summerskill is chief executive of Stonewall

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Careers Advisor

£24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Financial Controller

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for an experienced Fina...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / New Business Development / Full or Part Time

£20000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This global Events and Exhibiti...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Designer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity for someone wi...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: the Labour leadership election hasn’t yet got to grips with why the party lost

John Rentoul
Kennedy campaign for the Lib Dems earlier this year in Bearsden  

Charles Kennedy: A brilliant man whose talents were badly needed

Baroness Williams
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific