I’ve fallen in love. With a woman. She’s got blonde hair. She’s powerful. And she’s been known to kick ass.
She doesn’t know me and I don’t really know her, but I kind of nearly met her once.
Her name’s Hillary. And she’s probably the most powerful woman in the United States, and probably, therefore, the world.
If you haven’t guessed already, it’s Mrs. Clinton, other half of good old Bill, 42nd President of the USA.
Now, Bill doesn’t need to start getting worried, I don’t lurve Hillary in that way. She’s really not my type. But I have a huge amount of respect for her and hold her in great admiration. I first started loving her when I lived in the States from 1999 to 2000, and Bill was pretty much on his way out of office. She’d had a tough time dealing with his sexual indiscretions, and I always thought she handled it all very graciously.
It was whilst in America that I very nearly met her. I was lucky enough to have a tour of the White House (a private one from one of the chefs – a friend of a friend). It was 3rd July, so the house was closed to all other visitors (in those pre-9/11 days, members of the public could tour a few rooms of the presidential residence if they queued for hours on the sidewalk outside. It’s been closed to the public since 2001). The lack of other visitors that day meant that my friend and I were allowed to take down the barriers, snap photos, sit in the chairs and appropriate the odd monikered napkin from one of the many presidential bathrooms (framed in my house ever since). It also meant, however, that the Clinton family itself was not present (we were assured that if the Clintons had been in residence we would have met them, but that’s something we’ll never know for sure). We were, understandably, a little disappointed that we were not going to be able to meet the most powerful man in the world and his, then, not-too-powerful wife, but the chef-cum-tour guide decided to make up for it by showing us three things. The first was the food that had been prepared for Chelsea Clinton’s 4th July party (mildly interesting), the second was the presidential elevator (surprisingly small) and the third was the Clinton’s very own cat, Socks (very interesting, but not entirely friendly). Meeting Socks (and having a picture taken with him that, to this day, remains one of the most hideous photos ever snapped of man and beast) was a fantastic moment, as it meant that I had nearly met Hillary Clinton herself. It also meant that I had my ‘most interesting fact’ for life – you know, the kind of quirky fact you are asked for out of the blue on first dates or when people want to see how interesting you are and you can, without fail, never think of anything to say. Well, after meeting Socks, I knew this was never to happen to me again, as, at the age of 21 I knew I would forever more be able to fall back on the fact that I had once stroked the First Cat of the United States.
So, as explained, I have nearly met her, well by association (although how much she actually had to do with that cat in the sprawling corridors of the White House I don’t really know and being as he appeared to live in the basement, it was probably not much!), but it was cool all the same. But, cool as the near-meeting was, I’ve realised now, just today, that I’d love to meet her in person. I really would.
Now I’m no celebrity fanatic. I’m really not attracted to famous people. If I find myself in their presence, I try to ignore them or, at the very least, treat them like any other normal person I might meet. I think they have enough people pandering to their egos without me joining in. I don’t want to meet Hillary in order to get her to scrawl her name in a tattered autograph book next to Worzel Gummidge (Heanor Victorian Fair, 1985) or Goldie the Dog (Heanor Victorian Fair, 1986), and nor do I want to meet her so I can tell everyone about it (although I would, of course, ad infinitum). No, I want to meet her, right now, so I can say thank you.
What could I possibly want to thank her for? For making sure she’d run the hoover through the house before I popped round in 2000? For deciding to lose the frumpy hair in the mid-90s? Well, yes, I am, obviously, very grateful for both of those things, but I’d like to thank her right now, if she was sitting opposite me in this Soho coffee shop, for standing up so vociferously for gay rights in her speech to the UN in Geneva this week.
If you read it (link above), it’s quite a tour-de-force. And I love it. It’s what us British would call “very American”, by which we mean that it mentions rights and democracy a lot, is extremely positive in tone and is hugely aspirational, attitudes that our political leaders never find it hugely comfortable to express. I know that there will be detractors, even in the gay community, who will say that it’s just talk or that it’s an obvious attempt at vote-winning from an administration that is not faring too well in the opinion polls the year before a presidential election. But I really don’t agree. Out of all of the political parties in America (all two of them), I think the Democrats have slightly less to fear when it comes to the gay vote. I don’t predict, considering the Republican party’s track record on gay rights and scary plans for the future, that huge swathes of American gays will transfer their vote to the Republicans, however useless they may, or may not, believe Obama to be. No, I don’t believe this is a cynical vote-winning exercise. I believe that Hillary, and the administration she represents, believe what she said in her speech, that all human beings are born with innate rights and that the world has to work steadily to eradicate anti-gay legislation, however many years it takes.
My favourite quote from Hillary’s speech sums up my own beliefs, and what I believe are the beliefs of a great many decent people in this world:
Like being a woman, like being a racial, religious, tribal, or ethnic minority, being LGBT does not make you less human. And that is why gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.
I hope we don’t have to wait too long before people who share this belief rise to positions of power in the countries that criminalise gays for being who they are. And I hope that the USA will make good its promise to support them when they do.
Good on you Hillary. Feel free to pop around to my flat anytime you like so I can thank you in person. I’ll even make sure I hoover. But I don’t have any napkins you can steal, I’m afraid.