Friday, October 16, 2009

Stephen Gately 1976-2009

Like Andrew and Stephen, I was really saddened to waken last Sunday morning to discover that Boyzone singer Stephen Gateley had died suddenly on holiday in Mallorca at the agonisingly young age of 33.

At 26, I may have been much older than their target market when they appeared on the scene in 1993. However, and much to my husband's eternal shame, I just love that sort of trashy, cheesy boyband pop. I bought their stuff - I still listen to No Matter What and Love me for a Reason and I actually preferred Boyzone to Take That. Stephen, with his elfin good looks and permanent cheery demeanour was my favourite.

It was heartbreaking to watch his bandmates gather in Mallorca today to accompany his body back to Ireland for his funeral tomorrow. Five days on, they are obviously still in shock and I really feel for them and Stephen's partner, friends and family.

It was around the time that my daughter was born that Stephen decided to tell the world, his way, that he was gay. Ok, his hand had been somewhat forced given that somebody was attempting to breach his trust by selling a story on him to a newspaper, but he chose to take control of the situation and by doing so became a positive role model for young gay men who may have been struggling to come to terms with their sexuality. There was, of course, no backlash from fans. I, for one, had not really ever thought he was anything else and I admired the courage and dignity with which he came out. I just think it was such a shame that he had to endure years of anxiety beforehand. Even now, though, in sport and music, people still feel that they have to hide who they are. That's not their fault - and if you ever need proof that homophobia is alive and well, all you need to do is pick up a copy of the Daily Fail on probably any day you care to mention.

Today, though, they have excelled themselves. You would think that they would have the decorum to show some respect both to Stephen and his grieving family. Before I go on, I should say that it's been confirmed that Stephen died of natural causes, fluid on the lungs which is commonly a sign of a heart attack. Apparently there is a history of a heart condition in the Gately family.

Unfortunately most of us either know or know of someone who has died in similar circumstances - a young, fit person just basically dropping dead all of a sudden. It's horrible, but it happens.

But no, the facts aren't good enough for Daily Fail, whose columnist Jan Moir has today published a piece so crammed full of innuendo and homophobic bile that I actually felt like I wanted to go and have a shower after reading it. It takes a special kind of narrow minded bitterness and maliciousness to produce an article intended to provoke at any time, but especially on the eve of someone's funeral.

Her main assertion is that Stephen died because he was gay. What sort of person writes this?

"The sugar coating on this fatality is so saccharine-thick that it obscures whatever bitter truth lies beneath. Healthy and fit 33-year-old men do not just climb into their pyjamas and go to sleep on the sofa, never to wake up again."

She describes is death as "strange, lonely and troubling". I don't know if she ever met Stephen, but I doubt that she knew him. I tend to take more seriously the views of those who actually were close to him. We've heard in the past week from them how happy he was with life in general. Moir talks about a rented cottage but in reality, Stephen was on holiday with his partner in the apartment they'd just bought and done up. Career wise, things were going really well for him. He had a children's book about to come out and he'd shared in the success of the Boyzone reunion. How many of us have gone on holiday with our partners, gone out for a few drinks and fallen asleep on the sofa?

I don't know who is more despicable - Jan Moir for writing such prejudiced bile or the Daily Mail for publishing it. It's hard to believe that somebody actually took money for writing such a hatchet job and using a tragic, premature death as a springboard for an unjustified attack on everyone who's gay.

What's even more disgusting is the fact that she has a go at Kevin McGee, the ex partner of Little Britain's Matt Lucas, who tragically committed suicide last week. Apparently his demise and that of Stephen "strikes a blow to the happy ever after myth of civil partnerships". So what's she trying to say? Does she think relationships between men and women are based on the Disney Princess idyll? In fact, poor Kevin McGee had a long history of depression and addiction that would test any relationship. I've seen the toll that those awful illnesses had on the relationship of a close family member and how they contributed to her early death. Her partner loved her so much and he endured so much over so many years, despite her leaving him on several occasions. Sexuality has nothing to do with it. I've really felt for Matt Lucas since Kevin's death because I can empathise with what he's been through. Illness and addiction is hell for the people going through it and their loved ones.

For the second time this week, Twitter has risen up in outrage. There's a group on Facebook as well.

I like the way Stephen Fry puts it on Twitter:

"I gather a repulsive nobody writing in a paper no one of any decency would be seen dead with has written something loathesome and inhumane.".

It appears that people have been constructive with their outrage, complaining to the Press Complaints Commission to the extent that their website has crashed. Once it's up and running again, if you feel as strongly about this as I do, add your voice against this piece of insensitive and disgraceful writing. I'm not gay, but I'm sure as hell not going to stand about and watch an ignorant, prejudiced newspaper columnist away with a poisonous attack on a whole group of people.

I can't imagine that anything can actually make things worse for Stephen's friends and family at this time, but it must be horrendous for them to see such twisted half truth and innuendo about the person they loved. Jan Moir is only one person. Most deceent people will find her comments abhorrent and send their sympathy and love to them as they prepare for the ordeal of Stephen's funeral tomorrow.


Norman said...

I've joined the Facebook group Caron, thanks for the link.

Clair said...

Hear Hear


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