Forgive me if I’ve never been to Walmart, if I can’t quote from TV shows or know one presenter from another, if I’ve never been to high school or a prom or a Starbucks, if I’ve never eaten a hot dog or been to a diner, if I don’t know it feels to drive for hundreds of miles and think nothing of it or fly hither and thither to drink coconut flavoured drinks by the side of hotel pools, if I never say awesome or know anyone who does, if I don’t find it cute to dress up animals in clothes and if I would rather have all my finger nails pulled out one by one than visit fecking Disneyland, that I would rather walk across a sodden field littered with cow pats than through a crowded shopping mall, that I would rather listen to the least talented blackbird than Mariah Carey, that if I die without ever visiting a MacDonald’s I will not consider myself unfortunate.
Forgive me if the diversities that surround me are not the current spotlighted diversities of sexual orientation and mental health syndromes that have suddenly been discovered because vampires and dystopias have begun to pall, but the diversity of misery and poverty, the fifty seven different varieties of homelessness, of rough-sleeping, of handouts and begging, it’s the hundred different ethnic origins, the languages spoken, the colours and styles of dressing, it’s in the thousand different kinds of oppression fled from, the welcomes or the abuse received, the million different kinds of violence to body and soul.
Forgive me if I cannot get worked up or want to write a book about the torment of the primary school kid who can’t decide whether to use the girls’ or the boys’ toilets, or which colour to dye their hair or paint their nails, if I don’t meet so many transgender cross-dressers that I know and understand their daily purgatory and wish to populate my novel with similar characters, that if I create a similar character, with as much respect and love as any other, it is on the understanding that in the world I know, (dull and boring no doubt since I have never met one), that they form perhaps one per cent of the population, and to pretend otherwise is not serious.
Forgive me if my world is so dull and boring and so last century that it does not contain such variety and diversity, that the children I see in the streets are not concerned so much about anxiety as about surviving the abuse of their next customer. I write about what I know and understand, or at least try to understand from the point of view of limited experience.
Forgive me if I can imagine how I would feel on landing on a different planet, stepping through the portal into a different world or time, but I cannot step outside of me. I cannot know what it is to live a life of total misconception, where no one understands who I am or what I feel, when I don’t understand it myself. Who can unless they have been there? I have been cold, hungry and unhappy. Is that not enough? Is that not valid unless there is a veneer of some other ‘difference’ to coat the misery in a more acceptable form?
The acceptance or not of adolescent sexual orientation impinges on individual happiness and well-being, hard to bear for the one involved, but limited in impact. How much vaster are the implications, the geopolitical reasons to blame, for the wretchedness many of us see on our doorsteps. Could it be the number of Big Macs, the fracking, the gas-guzzling, the waste and excess of our privileged lifestyles? Could it just be that we are indirectly to blame for the abused kid washed up outside the supermarket door? That if we stuffed our faces a little less, cut out the XXXL steaks, the bumper portions and cheap cheap cheap lamb chops that fewer children would have to trawl through the steaming mountains of rubbish outside New Delhi and Cairo to survive? It’s all connected, our good life in exchange for the wretched, and that is tough to accept.
The abuse of all minorities in some countries, whether sexual, religious or political, is inhuman. In many countries all you have to do wrong is to be born female. So, without minimising the unhappiness and misunderstanding of the children lost between genders or mental states, let’s get this in perspective, please. All you who want real, true life, gritty, no holds barred novels about real people, who want to prove how open-minded, tolerant and humane you are, who want to propose books that will reflect the real world we live in, will you stop pretending that the real crux of the matter is which toilets we use?