Homophobia today

One of the genuine achievements of the Coalition government was the introduction of the Marriage Equality Act, the piece of legislation that made same sex marriage legal in the UK. It is a law that is heralded as the culmination of decades of campaigning by the LGBT community, a symbol of the progress we have made as a society in regards to sexuality and sexual rights.

But has progress truly been made? All over the world and, indeed, in Britain, individuals are still discriminated against in their day to day lives, they are still subject to harm, and their existing rights, so hard won over so many years, are under threat.

Recently, the country was exposed to the image of a lesbian couple who had been beaten by a gang of youths. It was a taste of what lies underneath the tolerant and accepting facade that has been built. The great, sweeping reforms of the past twenty years have still not broken through into parts of our culture. Indeed, incidents of “queer bashing” and other such crimes have been rising for the past few years. The London attack needs to be analysed – who did the attacking and why did they do it? It was a gang of youths, male (at the time of writing), the motive being that the couple would not engage in the group’s fantasies concerning lesbians. There is something deeply insidious in this attack, that these men believed that all they had to do was throw money at these women and they would do as they were told.

Currently ongoing is a protest against LGBT inclusive sex education in Birmingham. There are some who would point to the ethnic background of most of the protesters, arguing that this is based in a cultural background that is other, different from the mainstream. Yet, looking at the policies of UKIP, and by extension those of the Brexit Party, we find their opposition to this kind of education, labelling it as “indoctrination” and “gender confusing”. Ann Widdecombe has come forward in stating that she hopes that “science” will “cure” homosexuality. Esther McVey has stated that compulsory same sex relationship education should not be in secondary schools. This viewpoint is very much in the mainstream of British conservative and broader right thought.

There are, then, two strains of homophobia that currently exist in Britain. There is the well known violent variant, exemplified by the practice of “queer bashing” and the non-violent type that chooses to hide itself behind obfuscation. The modern conservative, it seems, will hide behind the idea that they do not hate gay people but they simply do not want to see them or acknowledge their existence. The former has never truly gone away and will take years more work to eradicate. The latter, however, is finding something of a second wind. How many of us have heard in the street or the coffee shop that someone does not mind “them” but would rather not have it “shoved” in their faces?

Britain is, relatively, a safe country for LGBT people. Unlike Southern Poland, for example, we are not going to claim that we are “LGBT free” just yet. Their rights are enshrined in law, the community are given legal protections and, legally, its members are considered equal. Yet, as I write this, there is a teenager being thrown from their home, a transperson succumbing to depression, another couple being beaten in some back alley. Frankly, this is not a good enough state of affairs.

The fight for liberty is one that is constant, one that is hard won but never permanently so. As liberals we are obligated to protect those who need it, to act against injustice when we see it. Therefore, we must defend LGBT inclusive sex education, fight against homophobia wherever and however we see it.

* Edwin Black is a keen Lib Dem activist in Sheffield whose interests include reading, writing, amateur cartooning and research into the history of British politics.

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12 Comments

  • OnceALibDem 12th Jun '19 - 8:19pm

    Not much mention here of what it’s like being a Trans person – where there is real vitriol expressed every day and coming from the mainstream not the fringe and often (unlike the McVey/Widdecombe nonsense) going uncondemned.

    Even on this site people have felt able to post some pretty unpleasant comments (quickly dealt with the moderators) and I’ve seen (apparent) Lib Dem post comments that would have them quickly given the bums rush out of the party if made about other groups.

    But make no mistake a lot of that is allying with the very unpleasant far right groups as well.

  • Nom de Plume 12th Jun '19 - 9:09pm

    That incident shocked me as well. I was not aware that such behaviour still existed. Then the high level of knife crime in London shocks me as well . There seems to be a culture of violence which I can not recall existing before. Perhaps it is better reported now, but when I was living in London pre-2000, I do not remember it being an issue at all.

  • The far right thrive on people to hate. If your a visible minority your fair game to them. Without hate and someone to denigrate and fear they have nothing, so yes I’m afraid going forward it is going to be a rough time. Brexit helped to embolden them, but Brexit is a symptom of a greater Malaise, brought on by a failure of our economy and society to live up to the boasts politicians and the press have been pumping out since the 1970’s. This failure is not unique to the UK, you can see it throughout the western world but particularly in Anglo Saxon economies.

    The motto of the far right is “if you can’t improve peoples lives, give them someone to hate” and they do; a theme being taken up by a fair chunk of the Tory party but then many of them are pretty far right. A pity some of our clueless ex-leaders failed to notice that fact.

  • Marriage Equality Act ….. during coalition, yes …. architect … Lynne Featherstone, who was a LIBERAL DEMOCRAT Minister. This was a Lib Dem initiative 🙂

  • chris moore 13th Jun '19 - 8:21am

    OnceALibDem 12th Jun ’19 – 8:19pm “Even on this site people have felt able to post some pretty unpleasant comments (quickly dealt with the moderators) and I’ve seen (apparent) Lib Dem post comments that would have them quickly given the bums rush out of the party if made about other groups.”

    Some of those making the relevant remarks will not be members or supporters of the party. This is an open dicussion fórum and we’ve seen a variety of off-colour remarks (on a range of topics) from individuals who are not Lib Dem leaning.

  • Mark Blackburn 13th Jun '19 - 8:21am

    In the past year or so, in London and Somerset, I’ve been subjected to homophobic abuse twice and racist abuse (I was mistaken for an Eastern European leaflet deliverer when out Focussing) once. And I’m a middle aged ‘straight’ white male. Hate is alive and well across England and fermenting in the populist alt-right (and far-left) initiated hostile environment against anything and anyone who does not conform to the norm. We have a job to do!

  • We did NOT pass a marriage equality act, we passed The Same Sex Marriage Act, and I cannot believe as chair of LGBT+ Lib Dems I am still having to bang this drum

    https://miss-s-b.dreamwidth.org/1972822.html

  • It was the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act, not the Marriage Equality Act. This is because it didn’t deliver Marriage Equality.

  • Please get the name right – it was the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act. There’s still quite a way to go before marriage is truly equal.

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