One thing you always have to account for is the shifting attitudes of the times – what was once normal and acceptable within society can become frowned upon or even illegal and similarly what was once thought unnatural or immoral can find acceptance in a more enlightened society. With that in mind, I present to you the case of Tom Jones, yes the famous singer, has come under fire from social media users for revealing that when he first broke into the music industry, his first producer was homosexual and this made him uncomfortable at that time. The responses to this news have been polarised and whilst it might not make headlines, it has generated some hype around it so I’m going to weigh in on the issue, if only for an excuse to use the title “It’s Not Unusual”
In an interview with The Big Issue, he said: “I was ready for most aspects of the music industry but when I met the producer Joe Meek, that threw me off a bit. Because he was a homosexual. I thought, wait a minute, is the London scene, the people who run British show business – are there a lot of homosexuals involved here? Because if so, I’m going back to Cardiff.” Apparently he continues, his first manager wanting to talk to Tom in private and Tom fearing that he was being solicited for sex in order to get a record deal and then realised, no, that’s not the case – this is a legit record deal, no sexual payments required, his manager just happens to be gay. Tom Jones admitted to a paranoia he held onto at the time and since then, he’s grown up and moved past it, accepting homosexuality and homosexuals in general as being just like everyone else, not a creepy cult conspiracy forcing people into sex through misdirection. Good on you Tom, good on you.
However, the backlash came from his tweet in which he said he realised “most people were normal. Well, I shouldn’t put it like that. Homosexuals are normal, it’s not that they aren’t normal. It’s just that they are what they are.” Ok, so not the best wording ever and I’d wager he probably still has a lot to learn about sexuality and the diverse range of sexual identities people class themselves as but Tom Jones got unfairly savaged by someone for his ‘outdated ideals’. He KNOWS they’re outdated, bear in mind he was establishing his fame in the 50s/60s, homosexuality was still illegal in some places and regarded as a mental health disorder in many psychological and professional circles, there wasn’t as much of an LGBTQIA community presence then as there is now. Jones didn’t have much information available to him to learn better, the media stereotype of the gay man was of an overly flirtatious weirdo that needed to be steered clear of and with doctors and preachers and news coverage calling homosexuality abhorable, it’s understandable he had a paranoia about them, the media image was not positive. Today, Tom Jones realises that these people are no different from him and that’s something he deserves commendation for.
Now, bear with me, the liberal minded of you out there might go “Well duh, of course gay people are just like us, why does he deserve credit for realising that?”. I’ll tell you, he deserves it because he had the gall to put up in the public space an admission that he WAS a homophobe and since then, he learned better through interacting with actual homosexuals and respecting them. Well done to him for that, it is not easy to admit to having held onto wrong belief systems and I stand by him – truth be told, when I was much younger my own belief of homosexuality was “I don’t mind them as long as they aren’t doing it where I have to deal with it or to me”, as if I had to lay down some ground rules with the LGBTQIA community or else be swamped with gay sex pests. I’ve changed, he’s changed, nobody is perfect from the start. For him to expose himself like that takes guts. Furthermore, it is an important realisation, sure it might only seem like a start to some but a starting point is something. You would say well done to a friend if they even committed to taking part in a marathon wouldn’t you? If people hold beliefs like “being gay is unnatural and immoral”, we have to give them credit when they get as far as “Okay, it’s not immoral, I can see that… but I’m still uncomfortable”. Fine, that’s okay, we can work with that – what we can’t do is shout people down for any misconception they have or they just won’t learn.
The pressure to be politically correct, such as it were, I can actually understand. I of course encourage everyone to keep trying to learn to be more acceptant of others but that works both ways, we have to be acceptant of those that are learning. I had a friend, who will remain nameless, but they accepted that people could be gay and that’s not inherently bad but they still thought it weird and gross. Now, I could have told them to not be such a privileged twat and many would have laughed and applauded me but I’d have just embarrassed someone who could have potentially become an ally in the fight for equal rights, someone who was at least trying to learn. So instead, of course, it was a matter of explaining why it isn’t all that gross and even if it were, how is it any more gross than straight sex? Outside of the fun of being a part of it, sex is really pretty frickin’ gross, a hot sweaty mess of stains and genitalia smashing together, what does it matter what goes where as long as those involved are okay with it? We have to accept that changing your views on things such as sexuality, politics or feminism are slow processes of constant learning and if you want to win someone round, you’ll catch more flies with honey over vinegar. So let me finish by saluting the Welsh legend, you did a brave thing indeed Sir Jones!