The games we choose to play

I recently got into Robert Sapolsky lectures on YouTube, after hearing him on The Rest is Politics. The guy has a very lucid way of explaining everything, and a style of speaking that holds my attention for hours.

One thing that got me thinking in this lecture on language is: “Language comes from peers – not parents.” For example – if you’re a child to British parents but you grow up in the Netherlands, you will speak and develop like your Dutch peers, and speak in a fluent Dutch accent. This is despite the fact you typically spend more of your younger years with your parents than your peers. In other words, you brain makes a choice about the group it wants to talk-like based on your identity.

In my observation some gay guys I went to school with speak in ways which aren’t like their parents or their peers. A good friend from high school is gay and always spoke with the most outrageously posh accent, despite neither his parents or peers speaking like this.

Another pattern I’ve observed is that gays are more likely to act like adults when they’re toddlers. They like to gossip with their mums or their favourite toy is the hoover. Maybe this is a bit stereotyping but I can name examples of people I know personally.

Humans have complex systems of identity. Unlike animals there’s enough of us and the landscape is open enough that we can can opt-out of whatever group we find ourself in. This ability to opt-out is perceived by us a child.

Personally I watched TV and saw myself in there. As a 6 year old I would lie in bed and watch BBC Two on my portable TV for at least 2 hours every night. It was my favourite thing to do and I realise this sounds super tragic.

I hated football, I couldn’t summon an interest in football to ever be good enough that another kid would pass me the ball. But being a boy at a First School in Wallsend seemed to mean that you needed to be into football.

I now realise this preference isn’t chosen. Just as being gay isn’t chosen, and I didn’t need to feel so awkward and weird about it all.

Instead I saw myself on the panel of HIGNFY, I saw myself cooking with Delia Smith or joining in with the fun on Red Dwarf or Dead Ringers. I wonder if failing to sufficiently see “ourself” in other kids at school pushes us to find ourself in other places.

I wonder if what we’re doing is seeing games. We’re choosing which games to play from the landscape – we dismiss those we can’t compete in (football) and sign up to the games we feel we have a chance of winning (acting in the school play).

At school I found the insult ‘Gay Lord’ to be the worst insult you could level at me, because my silly little brain couldn’t help but hear it as a compliment.

‘Gay Lord?’ I would think, ‘You mean see me as the Lord of the Gays? The highest ranking gay? Thats cool! Until today I was just the lowest ranking footballer’






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