Tuesday 29 April 2014

Raising agents

I mentioned Somerset Maugham a few days ago as an author from whom I've had days of reading pleasure.  He was a reading addict himself and claimed that he would rather read a telephone book than stare out of the window reading nothing.  He's most accessible in his short stories of which he wrote scores.  One of those The Book Bag starts by claiming that in his extensive travels in the colonial tropics he toted round an outsized laundry bag full of reading material - presumably not telephone directories.  You should read it because it slips into a (com)passionate look at one of society's great taboos. After that you can try Three Fat Women of Antibes and after that you can make you own way.  It was entirely coincidental that I should have been tribbing Maugham for his literary skills in a post that was primarily about (de)criminalising homosexuality.

But Maugham also had his day(s and days) in court in consequence of his own homosexuality.  Not that he was prosecuted for having a long-term gay relationship with Gerald Haxton and after his death with Alan Searle although he could have been. His legal adventures started when he attempted to disavow and disinherit his biological daughter so that he could adopt Searle and make him his heir.  The daughter Liza Lady Glendevon took him to court in England and France and secured at least part of her patrimony.  Finding out a bit about Liza sent me down an interweb rabbit-hole to a compilation of brief biographies of people rather repellently called queerspawn. As they say there's nowt so queer as folk:  some of them collect matchboxes and some collect people with somewhat less ordinary parents.  I've actually heard of a few (Jodie Foster, OJ Simpson) of those listed but I wouldn't have mentioned the connexion just because it features some celebs. It led, however, to a powerful youtube polemic in front of the Iowa State Legislature in favour of gay marriage by a fine upstanding college boy who has two mothers for parents. It's a great complement to Panti's passionate polemic about the negative experience of being gay in Ireland.  Zach Wahls' position is interesting in the same way as Leo Abse's - it's not one-dimensional.  The fellow is clearly an all-American boy: patriot, model student, church-goer and quarter-back but he won't accept that his parents are unsuitable to bring him up. The unavoidable conclusion is that any gay couple is as competent to raise children as any heterosexual ditto. Given how many emotional cripples there are hirpling about our society, married couples haven't set the bar very high for parental competence. The Economist's OpEd on the story said "This is what it looks like to win an argument"  I've been smiling all day since I heard him!

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