Tag Archives: pride

Aggressive homosexuals vs aggressive heterosexuals

This morning I created an image and posted it to Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Here’s the tweet:

For context: the phrase “aggressive homosexuals” comes from a speech yesterday in the House of Commons by Sir Gerald Howarth MP (Conservative, Aldershot) during the Report stage debate of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill. Sir Gerald is the current chairman of Conservative Way Forward and was Minister for International Security Strategy in the coalition government until September 2012 (according to his page on Wikipedia). Here’s where the phrase appeared in the speech:

“There are plenty in the aggressive homosexual community who see this [same-sex marriage] is as but a stepping stone to something even further.” (Hansard — no idea how persistent that link will be though.)

Sir Gerald doesn’t elaborate on exactly who the aggressive homosexual community are, or where he thinks the big gay stepping stone leads. As Hansard shows, a number of MPs tried to intervene at that point — perhaps to press him on this issue — but he declined to give way, as is his right.

It is difficult not to conclude that Sir Gerald sees pinks under the beds. He’s worked himself up into a froth about The Gays and believes that we, or at least a significant and influential slice thereof, subscribe to some kind of Gay Agenda to… I don’t know. Insinuate our way into marriage, and then what: use it to destroy the established church? I think the church is doing a perfectly good job of that itself over both gay people and women. Perhaps, looking at the context of the speech, he thinks our goal is to turn children to homosexuality by ensuring its mention in classrooms during discussions about marriage. Just as, presumably, teaching them about different religions converts them to all of those religions, or teaching them about contour lines turns them into a hill.

Back to the image.

The response has been fascinating. A steady stream of retweets throughout the day — perhaps not surprising, as it makes a strong statement on a topical, politically charged subject — and a few responses. Here are the negative replies so far:

“You do realise that despite your intentions, you’re labelling people with stereotypes.”

“That is way more offensive and way less clever than you think.”

“No. Aggressive homophobes.”

“What’s the intended goal of this? This seems to just further divide people (and straw-man the ‘other side’).”

“This is heterophobia.”

“Yeah a bit discriminatory. Ronnie Kray was a violent homosexual as was Richard the Lionheart. And let us not forget Dennis Nilsen. Violent people are of both persuasions.  Nothing to do with their sexuality.”

“Please be careful with that big stereotyping brush of yours eh?”

I haven’t replied to anyone, at least not yet. I probably won’t — it’s impossible to have meaningful debates in 140 characters. Perhaps some of them were unaware of Sir Gerald’s speech. Of course I’m stereotyping: so was Sir Gerald. Of course sexuality doesn’t determine whether you’re violent or not (but if you have to go back eight centuries for a counterexample — when sexuality was viewed very differently to today, incidentally — then you’re already on shaky ground).

The image is deliberately exaggerated, deliberately stereotypical. But it’s also showing an incontrovertible truth. You don’t, as a rule, see gay people demonstrating against straight people — Pride marches are positive in tone, not negative — but there are demonstrations by straight people against gay people, trying to deny us the rights they enjoy. There was a demonstration against equal marriage outside Parliament during the debate yesterday. And people like those shown in the image are beaten for no other reason than their sexuality. One of the men pictured was attacked last weekend with his boyfriend. Even 45 years after homosexuality was decriminalised in England and Wales it is still not safe for two men, breaking no law, to show affection wherever they wish in the way that a man and a woman can.

This is why the phrase aggressive homosexual community is so offensive. Gay people have suffered at the hands of the aggressive heterosexual community, indeed often through state-sponsored aggression, for several hundred years. We suffer still: religious leaders preach hate, political leaders deny us equality, and in some countries being open about our sexuality means a death sentence. And this is why I make no apology for the image, stereotypes and all.

But Sir Gerald Howarth is right on one point: we in the aggressive homosexual community do want equal marriage to be a stepping stone to something. We want it to be a stepping stone to the end of discrimination. To universal acceptance. To normality.

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Pride and no prejudice

I’ve said it many times: the key to acceptance is visibility. Casual racism stopped being acceptable in polite society – bar over a family Christmas dinner, all evidence indicates – when people made ‘openly black’ friends and realised that the tabloid myths were just that. So it is with queers, faggots and poofs, FTMs and MTFs, puppies and masters, bears, cubs, otters, twinks, bis, bois, ladyboys, gym bunnies, muscle marys and even those of a lesbianic disposition. We are all god’s children, for very small values of god.

Nowhere are these disparate flavours of humanity more visible than at Pride, which I attended for the first time at the weekend. I’d always thought of Pride as a festival of tack, a freak show, Invasion of the Mansnatchers. And, of course, it is: but, it turns out, gloriously, visibly so.

I attended Pride not as a spectator but as a participant, invited (with gaychums John, Roger and Vitaliy) by friends Rob and Jimmy to march, camera in hand, with the group Families Together London. No official role, just beefing up the numbers: the group helps parents, family and friends of LGBT people through what is often a confusing and scary time, and unsurprisingly many feel unable to join in with such events.

The parade route took us from Baker Street along Oxford Street and Regent Street to Piccadilly Circus, down to Pall Mall and across to Trafalgar Square, ending up in Whitehall. It’s a walk I won’t soon forget: through a long, snaking tunnel of spectators three, four or more deep, smiling, cheering, taking photos. Even cynical old Avaragado found it uplifting, exhilarating even, and more than a little moving. I’ve never experienced anything quite like it before.

Many highlights: the sheer number of gay couples in the crowd; the man who watched the parade from inside a phone box; the drag queen who danced the entire route near us and constantly posed for photos; the cheers; the surprising appearance of Peter Tatchell, banner in hand, standing by himself near the end of the parade route; and seeing people I knew in the crowd.

There were protestors, of course: some purple-faced proselytisers ranting from a safe, police-enforced distance. And a curious gentleman dressed in various manifestations of the red and white cross of St George – wig, cape, make-up, the works – who marched the route just behind us but seemed to be an interloper. Not sure what he was up to but his cape was covered in images of England footballers. He argued at one point with a few other marchers but was otherwise harmless and silent. Whatever: these things were insignificant, lost in the literal noise of celebration.

We marched for two hours or so; it was only at the end, as we left the crowds and descended back to Earth and reality, that my smile faded and my feet began lazily to ache.

The Pride party continued: Trafalgar Square and Leicester Square were both fudge-packed. Soho extended and embraced the entire West End. I suspect Grindr imploded under the load – as I can’t think of any other reason I received no messages.

It’s easy and simplistic to extrapolate from London at Pride to the rest of the world, or even to the rest of the country. During and after the march we were visible and accepted, therefore everyone is accepted everywhere. Not true. Some countries still suppress Pride marches. Some countries still imprison, beat, torture and kill gay people. There are still places in the UK where it’s not safe to be gay; still bigoted, powerful people who preach hate.

That’s what Pride is for. That’s what makes the sheer number of happy, cheering, accepting people in the crowd – straight and gay – so memorable, and so moving. Because it shows how far we’ve come, and reminds us how far we still have to go.

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