A freelance is a mercenary - the term once applied to a free man who, wielding his own lance, would join battle on the side of whoever paid best. But money was not the only reason I offered a piece to the Sunday Telegraph about the Civil Partnership Act, which has just come into effect.
My partner, Majid, and I have been to the local register office to give the required notice of our intent to register our partnership (which we will do, surrounded by family and friends, in a ceremony just before Christmas) and what I primarily wanted to do was to explain to the Sunday Telegraph's readership that official recognition of our partnership destroys neither the fabric of society nor "conventional marriage".
If the bill had not become law, neither of us would have said: "In that case, I'll find a good woman, marry and have lots of kids." We are simply two men who love each other, are loyal to each other and, having been together for six years, wish to reinforce our relationship with the cement of legality. And since the Sunday Telegraph, under its newish editor Sarah Sands, has revamped itself as a "touchy-feely", caring paper, the time seemed right.
My pitch worked. I wrote the requested "feel-good" piece and filed on time. The editor of the relevant page phoned to accept my article with some generous praise and a request for a few minor alterations. Fine: that is what editors do. The paper then sent a photographer from London to our home in north Cambridgeshire. Halfway through the shoot, however, the phone rang. "It'll be the paper," said the photographer. "They always ring when the photographer's there." It was.
An embarrassed page editor apologised and said the piece was being pulled. Not because a big new story required the space. Not because it wasn't what they'd asked for. So far as I could deduce, Sands may not have read more than the first paragraph. It seems that "someone higher up" (possibly the new editor-in-chief, John Bryant, brought in from the Mail to oversee both Telegraph titles) had decreed that there should be no more pieces likely to offend the paper's "traditional readership".
It was a bitter irony. The main drift of my piece had been that, over the past decade it had become widely acceptable to be openly gay. I'd gone on to explain how heart-warming it was that so many people were happy for us. I mentioned straight friends who'd felt emboldened to "confess": "Actually, I've got a relative in your situation." I also singled out the case of a Telegraph-reading friend whom I called Gabrielle. She and her golfing chum Ngaio finally feel that, even in that part of north Norfolk known as Chelsea-on-Sea, they have the confidence to admit to "playing off the same tee".
A further irony stems from a speech at this year's Tory conference in which the out-gay frontbencher Alan Duncan berated some party members. "The Civil Partnership Bill helps thousands of couples who feel discriminated against, and does no harm to anything or anybody. It is therefore contemptible that after it was passed so overwhelmingly in parliament, some Conservative councils are now trying to block its ceremonies on council property. Carry on like that, and this party will look like nothing more than a repository for prejudice and spite."
David Cameron, like Sarah Sands, may think a touchy-feely style is the way ahead. If so, he needs to be warned: he won't have the management of the "Torygraph" papers on his side. They seem intent on emulating certain councils as "repositories for prejudice and spite". Gay and lesbian couples need to be warned, too, that despite the revolution
in attitudes since the days when I could have been imprisoned for what I did in private with a consenting friend, not everything has changed. There are some people (including newspaper bosses) who believe that the long-standing love which Majid and I have for each other should still not speak its name.