Foreword to posts from 1999

As we headed towards the start of a new Millennium, the press homophobia was cooling somewhat. Public attitudes had changed out of all recognition. Opinion polls were beginning to show a more tolerant and accepting attitude among the public at large.

This was reinforced by a plethora of gay programming on television and much more thoughtful and sympathetic coverage in the sensible end of the press.

Despite this, the tabloids were finding it difficult to let go of their infantile approach, distorting not only the lives of gay people but creating hostility against other minority groups. People who had immigrated to Britain decades ago and regarded themselves as fully-fledged citizens with a big stake in the country, were suddenly being portrayed as aliens and threats.

This latent xenophobia, which had always, like homophobia, lurked just below the surface of British society was being stoked and encouraged by the tabloid press. The veneer of tolerance was wearing pretty thin.

However, we had yet to experience the full rage of the Islamist insurgency that was gathering pace in the Middle East. This really unleashed the illiberal streak in British society, and after the attack on New York on September 11 2001 and the fatwa against Salman Rushdie for his book The Satanic Verses, the Islamist threat mushroomed around the world.

Islamic attitudes to homosexuality were brutish and murderous and the struggle by Islamic conservatives to introduce more and more of their philosophy into Britain continues apace.

But gay life was improving step by step. Civil partnerships were granted, despite ferocious attacks from the churches and conservative elements in parliament. Equality legislation appeared that gave gay people protection against discrimination – again to the chagrin of the churches that lobbied hard for exemptions (and gained a few).

Interesting legal challenges arose as gay rights were pitted against religious rights and, at the time of writing, the legislation remains intact and undisturbed despite repeated court cases brought by fundamentalist Christians.

In the press there was a lot more sensible comment about homosexuality. The gay community began to admit that the boundaries between straight and gay were not as immutable as had once been claimed.

The final Mediawatch column was published in 2007 and since then gay rights continue to develop. In the USA, a right-wing populist administration is gradually rolling back some of the gains that gay people there had considered fixed and permanent.

In Britain, leaving the European Union has thrown much of the human rights agenda into the air once more. The battles are not necessarily over yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s