Friday, 13 April 2012

Rambly blog post takes its cue from misguided article

I read this article by David Shariatmadari about Stonewall's 'Some people are gay. Get over it!' adverts and it raised a few good points, although I didn't arrive to the same conclusion as him. He wondered:
Who was it aimed at, I wondered? Was it a) homophobic people? Well, I'd be surprised if anyone actually believes it has the power to inspire Damascene conversions among the prejudiced. So that leaves b) gay people, who I'm confident don't need much convincing that they – we – exist and c) sympathetic straight people, who equally don't need to be persuaded. 
Well, is it as simple as dividing straight people into homophobes and sympathisers? Despite the fact that us gays like to imagine we are the centre of attention the whole time, there are lots of people who perhaps don't have any gay friends or acquaintances and haven't given a huge amount of thought to it either way. People like my grandparents who, upon hearing "Tom's news" have never had a bad word to say about it. One congratulated me on the fact that even though I was gay, at least I wasn't "like that Chinese chap". Their assertion that being gay wasn't a problem as long as I was slightly less camp than Gok Wan  was obviously meant with love, and despite the anti-Gok Wan overtones I'm sure if I was as camp as Gok Wan they'd have thought of something else supportive to say.

I nearly wrote: "He thought that the whole point of  campaign was about equal marriage rights (it isn't)". I'm wrong about this - the campaign is now all about marriage apparently. Or sort of. They've had the exact same campaign for a few years now, although currently on bus adverts instead of directing people to stonewall.org.uk, it has the web address stonewall.org.uk/marriage. Great. A campaign about fighting equality and discrimination is now all about getting married. Even though we already have civil partnerships.

'Get over it!' could be viewed as kinda confrontational, although it makes a pretty good point. Some people are gay. So? It doesn't even really mean you have to like gay people, or condone the horrifying sex acts we get up to. It just asks you to leave us alone. Which is why I'm surprised they've bastardised this old campaign into being about marriage, when the slogan doesn't really fit. 'Some people are gay. Therefore we should change the law to allow same-sex marriages!' - would be more appropriate. 'Get over it!' vaguely implies that the only thing that needs to change is your attitude, and not a centuries-old law.

Saying that - I don't really approve of Stonewall banging on about marriage so I should be grateful that they've changed tack in a really half-arsed way. The campaign keeps its its original message intact, despite the url change.

Back to the 'who was it aimed at?' point. Well, not just people's grandparents. Basically, people are more impressionable than we think. Especially young people. As Judge Judy once said to a 16-year old girl who'd crashed her friend's car, "When you're 16, you're not fully cooked". Stonewall does a lot of important work fighting homophobia in schools, and seeing these ads all over buses probably hammers the point home a bit.

I take issue with this paragraph:
Being gay is still seen as fine in some contexts, but not all. It's acceptable in your proverbial Islington dining room (though perhaps not in the Islington registry office), fine according to the statute book, but not if you try kissing your same-sex partner in public. Or sit next to them on the bus. Or hold hands in the street.
You sure about that David? Not to say I've never had any problems with random members of the public, but is it sensible to let a few hate crimes intimidate us? Don't let the terrorists win. Letting random attacks deter us from holding hands in public seems a pretty defeatist attitude.
But when I saw the advert it occurred to me that it, and that supercilious exclamation mark in particular, could in fact give people an excuse to express their homophobia. Stonewall's good intentions might simply end up making gay people's lives more difficult.
And so it came to pass. The Core Issues Trust ("God's heart in sexual and relational brokenness") and Anglican Mainstream, a group of hyper-conservatives within a generally quite gay-friendly church, took the bait. They booked space on buses to display a different tagline: "Not gay! Post-gay, ex-gay and proud. Get over it!" Slightly baffling, but definitely homophobic, and obviously intended as a riposte to Stonewall.
OH MY GOD.

Remember on that show Dead Ringers, how Jan Ravens took the piss out of Kirsty Wark, and deadpanned the lyrics to rubbish pop songs "don't be shy, touch my bum this is life"? Maybe just me then. These crazy gay-curing people already existed. The fact they somewhat unhilariously satirised a gay-rights campaign is not really going to make our lives any harder. And pointing out they copied Stonewall so it's Stonewall's fault this story even happened is a bit like saying If Kirsty Wark didn't present Newsnight that the first minute of Dead Ringers would have been that old BBC test card of the girl with the creepy clown.
Gay people have been pointlessly reminded, not that homophobia is unacceptable, but that there exist organised groups that detest them.
Thanks David. Yeah, gay people are that forgetful. We had no idea that there were some Christian groups who are jealous of our fabulousness until I heard about yesterday. I was so wrapped up in making myself margaritas and browsing the Ikea catalogue that I just forgot some people reckon they can cure me of my inherent deviance by electrocuting me whilst showing me slide after slide of gay pornography.

What he's trying to say is that we can blame homophobia on gay people. As long as we play nice and don't make too much noise, the homophobes will leave us alone. Basically, we should hide.

He makes one very good point though:
If that weren't enough it's now impinged on the mayoral race as a dream pseudo-controversy for Boris, an opportunity to flaunt his inclusivity and his modernising credentials just before polling day.
We really need to think what Ken would have done here, and it would have been the exact same. Ken Livingstone has an amazing record of fighting for gay rights and let's not let Boris use this as point-scoring to win the gay vote. (Btw: I have a few issues with Ken, but he's a better mayoral candidate than Boris).

Oh and because I'm feeling generous, let's pick one more issue with the article.
Stonewall could learn a thing or two about campaigning, and changing attitudes, from Dan Savage
Well no, Dan Savage isn't as great as you think. He thought of those 'It Gets Better' videos, good on him, but read this article where he comes across as a complete dick.
The tranny activists are going to jump down my throat for this, but it seems to me that your ex could’ve put off the sex change until after his son was out of high school. One of the things parents are supposed to do is make sacrifices, big and small, for the sake of their children. And while I think people have a right to do pretty much as they please (and parents are people), I also believe that children have a right to some stability and constancy from the adults in their lives. Perhaps I’m a transphobic bigot, but I honestly think waiting a measly 36 months to cut your dick is a sacrifice any father should be willing to make for his 15-year-old son. Call me old-fashioned.
Unfortunately, your ex wasn’t willing to make that sacrifice (selfish tranny!) or it never occurred to him to make that sacrifice (stupid tranny!). So what do you tell your son? Tell him his father can do what he likes—suck dick, flaunt it; get his dick cut off, flaunt that. If dear ol’ dad chooses to live as a woman, well, there’s not a lot you or your son can do. But guess what? Your son is old enough to do what he likes and if he chooses to live without seeing or speaking to his father, well, there’s not a whole lot his father can do. If your son can’t deal with having his dad/mom/whatever around right now, support your son and tell his dad/mom/whatever to leave the two of you alone for the time being.
Now I am sometimes tactless. But this? You've gotta admit this isn't nice. It's more of this 'I'm gay but discreet' bullshit.

People shouldn't be afraid to challenge homophobia. It's all about context I know (if a drunk stranger shouts something at me then I'll run away if it looks like there's the slightest chance they're good at punching) and it's not like the situation is all that terrible in this country when we compare it to other parts of the world - but this doesn't mean we should chastise people for trying to make a difference.

We don't hear about racism and say it's because there's too much anti-racism campaigning going on, or that the anti-racism campaigning is too aggressive. We shouldn't do the same for homophobia.

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