RECENT EVENTS seem to have convinced The Times and The Daily Telegraph that the gay army is advancing a little too boldly, and so they have been wheeling out their own big guns to fire back.
Both papers have a veritable army of commentators – many of them obsessive on the subject of homosexuality – who regularly wield their favourite antigay cliches like cudgels, repeating them endlessly, on the assumption, I suppose, that if people hear them often enough, they will eventually come to believe them.
Here are some of the more common examples seen in the past month. Cliche No 1: “Homosexual ‘rights’ are a threat to family life and the traditional moral order.” Digby Anderson was peddling this one in The Daily Telegraph (April 19th) in an article entitled: “Sad road to ‘gay weddings’.” He says that if gay marriage is sanctified, then all that “we” hold dear will be destroyed. Mr Anderson used to favour that other well-known myth, the one that says that if it hadn’t been tor the liberal reforms of the sixties, we wouldn’t have this “increasingly aggressive demand for homosexual ‘rights””. Now he’s changed tack. These days he believes that those who originally reformed the divorce and homosexual laws, had never intended their liberalism to lead to the present “grab for rights”. “It [sixties law reform] was a settlement that retained the old notions of normality and perversity; the normality of heterosexual faithful marriage as an ideal, while exercising tolerance and compassion for those who could not attain it.”
Now look what has happened! “Rationality, compassion and tolerance are drowning in a sea of minority rights, demands for ever more handouts, denials of the very notion of normality and perversity… Current society is morally adrift, moral considerations and responsibilities have been replaced by warring rights and competitive grabs at the cake.”
(Cliche No 2, which Mr Anderson also deploys in this piece, is that “traditional morality” is being turned on its head. (“The sin of the Nineties is not sodomy but homophobia,” he says disconsolately.) In the Jewish Chronicle (April 19th) Chaim Bermant, flogged Cliche No 3: “Gay relationships are meaningless
His rant was prompted by a decision by the Central Conference of American Rabbis to gjve its blessing to gay marriage. “We are not a particularly united people.“ he says, “but if there is one thing which the various Jewish denominations had in common, it was a commitment to family fife. Let us, for the moment, forget the many and emphatic imprecations on sodomy to be found in Scripture. Let us evert forget the dangers inherent in such practices. Yet even Reform rabbis of the most reformist tendency cannot deny that homosexual unions are inherently sterile.” He goes on to say that even though one in three heterosexual marriages end in divorce, those unions at least have “the potential for bliss… which gay marriages do not.” (Mr Bermant also manages to work into his piece Clich6 No 4: “The very fact that homosexuals have appropriated and perverted a word like ‘gay’ as peculiarly their own is a confession of the inherent bleakness and emptiness of their way of life.”)
Back to The Daily Telegraph (May 1st) for Cliche No 5: “If homosexuals didn’t flaunt their sexuality, people wouldn’t discriminate against them.” This one was peddled by Angela Jones, a new name to add to the roster of unbalanced press homophobes. “Over the past couple of decades there has grown up an increasingly strident homosexual lobby. Not content that their private behaviour should no longer be punished by the criminal law, they have been lobbying for their lifestyle to be fully accepted by mainstream society…There are still many people who feel uneasy about these trends. They do not wish to be constantly reminded of perversion… But what of the right to free association, the right of an employer and fellow workers to work with those of their kind. At present, if a homosexual alienates employer and colleagues by flaunting his sexuality an industrial tribunal will uphold the fairness of his dismissal.” Ms Jones seems, therefore, to think that it is good to deprive people of their livelihoods simply because they make her feel uncomfortable. Surely the very definition of bigotry!
Cliche No 6: “Homosexuals who fail to integrate will suffer a backlash.” This was given an airing by Magnus Linklater in The Times (April 18th). He was talking about the departure of Andrew Sullivan as editor of The New Republic in America. Linklater thinks that Sullivan is a “sexual fundamentalist” and says that his opinions are “erecting barriers rather than demolishing them, encouraging prejudice against the gay community rather than reducing it.”
When the National Union of Teachers passed a motion at its conference asserting that “The presence of openly gay and lesbian teachers has a positive impact on schools”, it prompted Ray Honeyford, a former head teacher, to repeat Cliche No 7 (Daily Telegraph, April 17th): “If children are told about homosexuality, they will be lured into a homosexual lifestyle.” Mr Honeyford said: “The ultimate sexual destiny of children is an open question, though we know the vast majority will turn out to be heterosexual. Children and young people are not sexually being so much as sexually Incoming. Moreover, many boys go through a period of sexual confusion at puberty The presence of an obvious homosexual on the school staff, can easily lead an adolescent to mistake a transitory crush for a permanent sexual commitment.”
Cliché No 8: Being gay is the same as being a paedophile. This one was brutally promulgated Daily Express headline (May 8th): “Gay attackers snatched bike boy, 9, off Street” over the hideous story of a young boy raped and killed by two monsters who made a career out of child abuse.
IN EDINBURGH, two gay men applied to adopt a 5-year-old boy whom they had been fostering for 18 months. The boy, who is severely disabled, had been in care from an early age, and his unmarried natural mother did not want him. The heroic gay couple decided to take him into their home and by all accounts have made a wonderful job of caring for him. The judge, Lord Gill, refused to allow adoption, not because he doubted the truth of court reports saying that the child was benefiting from being raised in a house of love and commitment, but because he felt the whole issue of adoption by gay couples needed a thorough airing.
As The Scotsman said in an editorial: “A fuller legal, moral and social debate can only benefit future similar cases.” This is a view shared by veteran gay campaigner Ian Dunn who told the paper he was confident that such a public discussion would eventually result in gay people being allowed to adopt. Meanwhile, the child happily remains with the gay couple.
Of course, adoption is not the only way for gay people to make child-raising part of their lives. The Daily Express reported on its front page (May 7th): “A boy of two conceived by artificial insemination is being brought up by a lesbian couple and two homosexual men.” The two couples in question have done nothing illegal. One of the female partners inseminated herself with the sperm of one of the gay men, and the resulting child is being raised with the participation of all four. “Outcry at the toddler shared by four gays. It’s totally unnatural” screeched the Daily Express, which is hardly a good start to a balanced debate, The Express asked local MP Phil Gallie to comment. He said: “This is totally against all the teachings of the Church and traditions of the family. I feel sorry for the child involved.”
Then came the Conservative Family Campaign: “That a child should start his life shared between two homosexual couples is absolutely horrendous. If this is legal, it shouldn’t be. Children are not the playthings or property of adults. They have rights and needs of their own.” (Oh really? Ask the CFC about the rights and needs of gay children and see what the response is.)
To be fair, The Express did tack on to the end of its story a comment from The British Medical Association saying that “there is no evidence that gay couples make worse parents” and one from a child psychologist saying: “If a child is genetically programmed to be heterosexual, it is unlikely that his sexuality will be adversely affected by this sort of situation.”
In the arena of gay rights, parenting is likely to become the crucial issue. As the notion of what constitutes a “real” family is gradually redefined there will be vehement resistance from “traditionalists” who will employ every weapon in their armoury to thwart our efforts. Jeanette Kupfermann in The Daily Mail (May 8th) was first to the barricade making the point that the fundamentals of our culture are changed at our peril: “The family’s function is not merely to provide a home for children; it serves as a prime transmitter of our cultural values, it’s the crucible where all our attitudes and values are manufactured, despite increasing intervention by the state. We recognise at some profound level that at the basis of all our values lies the notion of heterosexuality.”
This debate is only just beginning, but I have a feeling that the newspapers will ensure that it is nasty, mendacious and cruel.
“We seem to be entering into an era of liturgies for anything under the sun. Will there be one for homicidal maniacs next?’ asked an outraged Revd Tony Higton, a leading Church of England evangelical, when informed of a new collection of Christian liturgies for lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transsexuals. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, of Cape Town, has given the book We Were Baptised Toohis full backing and caused further controversy by stating that the homophobia inflicted on gay people was “nearly the ultimate blasphemy”.
“It’s not about the right to be different. The services don’t have a right to be different to the rest of lite, but they have a need to be different. Anything that breaks the trust between man and man in combat, is not something we can have,” Armed Forces Minister Nicholas Soames commented recently about the ban on gay service personnel. However, when asked if the armed services allowed females, “Allowed,” he boomed, “they’re positively welcomed… “ – until he realised the Sunday Telegraph interviewer was in fact inquiring about lesbians.
“Twenty or thirty years ago to be homosexual was, for a large majority of people, and certainly in terms of the mass media and political establishment, immoral. Now, to be homophobic is immoral,” Andrew Marr, the new political editor of The Independent recently told journalists on Out this Week, the lesbian and gay news programme on Radio 5