My best friend, whom I’ve known since I was 16, is gay. He hasn’t told his parents, but I think families often know things even when they are not talked about. I often accompany my best friend when he visits his parents, where they talk about anything apart from his personal life.
They actually spend more time asking me about mine. I went the other day and his mum said, “So, Shazia, when are you getting married? Your parents must be very disappointed that they have an unmarried daughter.” Then they turn to their son and say, “James, how’s London? How’s the new car? What do you want for dinner?”
Maybe it’s a generational thing. They daren’t ask questions for fear they may get an honest answer. I never know whether they really know, so I bring up the names of gay men like Freddie Mercury and Dale Winton to see how they react. His mum responds by saying, “They’re nice men – but they’re not like us.”
When my friend comes round to my house, my mum says, “He’s nice – is he married?”
I say, “No, he’s gay.”
“What does that mean?” she asks.
I say, “It means he likes men.”
“No, no, no, that doesn’t happen in real life. It only happened once in Are You Being Served?” she replies.
As much as my mum denies to herself that gay exists, unconsciously she has always loved gay men. Her favourite people on TV were Kenny Everett,Larry Grayson and Frankie Howerd. Now she has a picture of Lily Savage by her Qur’an stand.