What do Macklemore and the Bishop of Salisbury have in common? Two things, actually: they’ve both been in my cab, and they have both been shortlisted for Stonewall awards for their contributions to gay equality. Okay, Macklemore hasn’t literally been in my cab, but I’ve been blasting out his track “Same Love” in the autumn sunshine since discovering it in the last few weeks. Written and released in support of the pro-gay marriage campaign in Seattle in 2012, it’s a brave and powerful bit of hip-hop that draws a parallel between the gay equality struggle and the black equal rights movement and calls out homophobia in the genre.
Realising that London cabbies don’t generally have much of a reputation for their liberal views, I’ve taken some pleasure in imagining people hearing this message of love and acceptance, looking to see where it was coming from, and being surprised to find the source was my black cab. I began to think of myself as a one-taxi crusade, not only for gay rights, but on a mission too to present a different image of the London cabbie. I imagined how wonderful it would be to be blasting out this music from a cab painted in rainbow colours and emblazoned with the lyric “no freedom ‘til we’re equal – damn right I support it”. I fantasised that if I was rich I could pay for a fleet of such cabs to drive around London, at once fighting for gay rights and the improvement of the London cabbie’s public image.
The Bishop of Salisbury, on the other hand, I really have had in the back of my cab. He’s nominated for Stonewall’s Hero of the Year award because of his longstanding support for gay equality, for becoming the first Church of England bishop to speak out officially in support of equal marriage, and for writing an open letter of support that was published in the Daily Mail during the week the historic bill passed through the House of Lords.
I picked him up in Westminster at the end of that week and took him to Waterloo to get his train back to Salisbury. Though he was friendly enough, I sensed he wasn’t keen to have much of a chat, so after exchanging a few pleasantries I left him to it in the back of the cab. At the time, although I’d heard about the gay-friendly bishop on the news, I didn’t put two and two together, and I didn’t realise he was that bishop until he’d got out and I looked him up online. I just knew I had a senior cleric from Salisbury in the back of the cab, and being a liberal, gay, modern kind of a guy, I’m not enormously keen on senior clerics.
I did ask him what he’d been doing in London, and he just said he’d had some business to attend to and got back to checking his phone. And I can’t help thinking now, no wonder he didn’t seem too keen to chat. I’m sure the last thing he wanted to do after the week he’d just had was get into a debate with a London cabbie about gay marriage.
So there we were: the Church of England’s only pro-equal marriage bishop and one of London’s few gay cabbies, driving over Westminster Bridge together in the evening sun after a week that meant a hell of a lot to both of us, and neither really understanding who the other one was.
How I wished later that I’d shaken his hand and thanked him for what he’d done that week. Told him what a good man I thought he was. If only I’d rounded the corner in my fantasy rainbow cab that day as the bishop stuck his arm out, maybe then things wouldn’t have been left unspoken. My bewildered senior cleric would probably have taken me to be some kind of minor miracle, and me him.