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Gay Times May 09 - Issue 368

Imaginary Homophobia

Author and journalist Chas Newkey-Burden examines the 'victim status' in modern British gayland

Question: what do these three have in common: the town of Maidstone, an elderly couple in Cornwall and The Beano comic. Answer: all three have been – laughably – accused of homophobia in recent times. Wherever gay men gather in modern Britain, the sound of barrels being scraped soon fills the air. We have made frankly astonishing progress in terms of legislation and social acceptance. We are now disproportionately visible in popular culture. We’ve never had it so good. Yet we have responded to all this progress not with a sense of pride or celebration, rather one of desperation to never, ever let go of the victim status we cleave to.

So we look for homophobia where none is there. Take Martyn Hall and Steven Preddy: a gay couple trying to sue a great grandmother and her elderly husband for refusing to let them stay in a double room in their Cornwall hotel. The hotel has a blanket rule about unmarried couples not sharing rooms, whatever their sexuality. If Hall and Preddy had any sense they would respect the hotel’s policy and stay elsewhere in future. But no, they scream “discrimination” and try and drag a great grandmother through the courts.

This sort of hallucination of homophobia is widespread nowadays. Even in the pages of a recent issue of this very august magazine, the BBC was astonishingly accused of being a “bastion” of homophobia. One of the key pieces of evidence for this jaw-dropping allegation was that some “gruesome straight blokes” had dared to quip during a list show that it is a shame that Lindsay Lohan is gay because attractive females “should be saved for guys”, whereas uglier women were welcome to each other.

Homophobia? Not at all - and that’s not just the sound of a barrel being scraped you can hear, but also of a pot calling a kettle black. Gay men routinely enjoy identical harmless banter to this, wishing homosexuality upon lusty lists of hot male celebrities like David Beckham and Zac Efron, but strangely never being so swift to speculate or yearn that, say, Ricky Tomlinson or John McCririck like a bit of man-on-man action. Funny that.

It’s a self-fulfilling irony: the less reason we have to take offence, the more honed does our ability to take offence where none is needed. Look at us: we can have civil partnerships; our equal rights are widely protected by law; we swagger openly from gay venue to gay venue, whining about supposedly homophobic subtexts in television comedies, or worrying about how someone at work looked at us a bit funny at the water-cooler.

Meanwhile, in seven countries you can still be executed for being gay – why the silence about this?

It bears repeating - people are being tortured, imprisoned and executed in some Middle Eastern countries for their homosexuality, but there is no concern in these shores about our ‘brothers’. In some Caribbean states, brutal homophobia is legally sanctioned, but again any solidarity with gay men there is sadly lacking in Britain. Let’s be frank: there’s no such thing as a ‘brotherhood of man’ in British gayland: we’re the most obscenely selfish shower roaming this planet. This overseas homophobia is not theoretical. In recent times young men have been executed for being gay in Iran and Yemen and we are worrying about harmless jokes on list shows or getting our knickers in a twist about hotel with an old-fashioned policy. Gay pride? I’ve never felt such shame.

Some will argue that the scarcely visible homophobia we face in the UK, and the brutal version encountered by those in some other countries is all the same phenomena and that by countering one, we counter the other. What a cop-out. The Islamist in the Middle East who throws young men into torturous dungeons for being gay couldn’t care less about the silly email you sent to the BBC about a Chris Moyles quip.

The sad reality is that gay men are too busy boasting in chat-rooms about how ‘hung’ they are to even notice that gay people are being quite literally hung overseas. But this is not just selfishness, although it is certainly that in spades. It is also basic cowardice. Making accusations of homophobia against Brian McFadden or Boris Johnson is easy. Neither tends to bite back particularly hard. Opposing anti-gay brutality in the Middle East and elsewhere might actually take some courage – a quality in increasingly short supply in British gay life.

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