Homophobia Today and Lessons from the Past

I was beginning to think that homophobia was a thing of the past. It has been so long since anyone I knew has had any hassle of any description that I was beginning to think that we didn’t need to worry about homophobia anymore.
And then there was a run of apparently unrelated events ranging from unsettling to tragic.

First came an horrific attack on the 14th of October in Trafalgar Square London. Two teenage girls pushed 62 year-old Ian Baynham to the ground and kicked his head in whilst shouting homophobic abuse. He sustained brain damage and died in hospital a few days later when doctors turned off his life-support system.

On the 16th of October, Daily Mail “journalist” Jan Moir treated us to a little bijou about Boyzone singer Stephen Gately’s death.
Despite the coroner’s verdict of a natural death, Jan Moir knew better, and she was not afraid to say so. Stephen Gateley’s death was, Moir informed us, “strange, lonely and troubling.”
Without talking to, and in direct contradiction of the coroner, and without seeing Gately’s body, or indeed having ever met Gately whilst alive, Moir felt able to assert that Stephen Gately’s death was “not, by any yardstick, a natural one” and was “more than a little sleazy”. How did Moir know this? Well, journalism is quite easy really – Stephen Gately was gay you see. That’s all sleuth Moir needed to know, because of course gay equals strange, lonely, troubling and seedy.
No wonder teenagers think that killing us is such a giggle.

On the 22nd of October, I had the misfortune to see Nick Griffin, the head of the facist British National Party declare, (on BBC TV for the first time ever) that he finds the sight of two men kissing “creepy.”

On the 2nd of November gay trainee policeman James Parker sustained “multiple life-threatening head injuries” and “fractures to his eye-socket and cheekbone” from a homophobic beating from four youths (14 to 17 years old) in Liverpool. James is still critically ill in hospital today.

And then, and then… A couple of nights later, I’m at a dinner party and a close, clever (yes, clever) friend declares drunkenly that Jean-Marie Le Pen would be the “ideal” first president of Europe. His reasoning – that Tony Blair, and probably anyone else the current corrupt political establishment is likely to throw up – will be awful and undemocratic, is sound enough.
But the idea that racist, anti-semitic, homophobic fascist Jean-Marie Le Pen is a more acceptable candidate, is in fact even someone that polite people might mention at a dinner party is entirely new, and profoundly troubling.

Now the thing is this… we know how this works. Even without Jan Moir-like leaps of faith, history provides all the information we need.
In the late twenties at a dinner party somewhere, someone probably said that Hitler would make a good leader, and probably many at the table disagreed but said nothing. At the same time the Moir of the epoque, let’s call her Johana, was writing articles about those seedy Jews, and how best to deal with those poor, strange homosexuals, and how best to dispose of handicapped people, and maybe a few people were shocked – maybe a couple even complained. But not enough people displayed outrage to demonstrate to the majority that these viewpoints were unacceptable.
Some Jews got knocked to the ground and kicked in the head. And then the same thing happened to some poofs. And the people who did it were charged with manslaughter – kicking a poof to death is not, it seems, murder – and no one really said that much about it… and Johana Moir continued her insidious little column.
And then a year later at another dinner party someone said that Hitler would make a good leader again, only this time two of the six other people present openly agreed, enough, spread nationally, to get him elected.
We all know what happened next (well, except for Nick Griffin and Mr Le Pen who say they aren’t so sure) but just in case anyone’s memories need refreshing this acquiescence resulted in the greatest blood-bath the world has ever seen: the extermination of six million jews, two hundred thousand handicapped people, the deaths of sixty-million people globally, and of course, the arrest of a hundred thousand strange, lonely, troubling, seedy creepy German homosexuals, many of whom were also exterminated.
If you want to know more about mass psychology, and how the silence of the majority enables the conversion of the masses to the vociferous rantings of a few crazed bigots, I can only recommend that you read Inga Clendinnen’s stunning work, Reading The Holocaust.
But if you don’t have time for her magnificent tome, please at least learn the lesson she delivers: That wherever we hear the crazed rantings of the Jan Moirs or the Nick Griffins of this world, whenever we hear of a gay man being kicked to death… whenever a friend at a dinner party says that Jean-Marie Le Pen would make a fabulous whatever… it is our responsibility to condemn, and challenge and to let everyone present know that we do not agree.
If we don’t do this then others present will begin to think that what they are hearing is a perfectly reasonable way to think, and then, a little down the line, that it is a majority point of view, and that, as history shows us, that really doesn’t bear thinking about.

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