It’s the 21st century, let’s stop worrying about sexuality

“Why are you gay?” was a question asked to Mae Martin a few years ago, and it seems this query is still circulating today. At the Hay Festival this evening critic and feature writer Stephanie Merritt discussed with Mae Martin the concern of labels and identity politics, the under-representation of the LGBTQ+ community in history, and how her comedy career has escalated since she began at age 13.

“If it’s helpful to even one teenager that makes it worth it”, Martin said, as she explained the powerful reaction her book has received not only in helping children "come out" to their parents, but parents "come out" to their children.

The Canadian queen of irony joked that she “thought the only [gay] people were Oscar Wilde and Ellen DeGeneres” growing up, and said it’s a shame “we don’t learn in school all of the same sex marriages in history”.

“It’s now considered uncool to be bigoted”, she said, however quick progress comes with a backlash of panic, and an increase in labels hasn’t made this any easier. Martin agreed that labels are important and necessary for human rights, yet added the LGBTQ+ acronym is “pretty exhaustive”.

Martin explained that she hopes we can, as a society, get to a place where no one has to experience the stresses of coming out. “I want it to just be called human sexuality”, she said.

If you are interested in gender issues please also see Siri Hustvedt talks to Claire Armistead at 4pm on Saturday 25 May. If you like watching Hay Festival events digitally please sign up to the Hay Player for more from the world’s greatest thinkers.