Saturday, 31 August 2013

When Did LGBT Folk Become The People We Hated?

Last month marked 36 years since Mary Whitehouse took Gay News to court for publishing a blasphemous poem. 29 years ago Gays The Word was raided for obscene materials. Right now attempts to filter the internet and ban "sexualised" images in public are likely to lead to more attempts to stifle free speech by LGBT people (see, for example, the way mobile phone companies block legitimate LGBT websites). 

We've been fighting for freedom for decades. I'm thankful, very thankful, to those who came before me that I came of age in a time when things have been less difficult (the only really homophobic incident I can think of is having stones thrown at me for holding hands with my then boyfriend). But even so the history of the struggle still influences the way I think. 

Unfortunately this history of oppression, for daring to say and do things of which mainstream society didn't approve, has singularly failed to stop some LGBT people becoming just as EVIL (and I do not use that word lightly, but use it I must) as Christians ever were (and are). 

We've had cases for the last ten years or so of preachers being harassed and arrested by police for doing things of which mainstream society does not approve. Be it speaking in public (Adrian Tippetts brilliantly defends the right of Tony Miano to be horrid in public here), leafleting (Stephen Green, shudder) or emailing (see the latest instance involving Alan Clifford here) it would seem religious nutters are getting a bit of a hard time. 

Anti-gay public speaking is offensive, to me at least. I remember one particular instance of a guy with a megaphone in Trafalgar Square that left me so angry and hurt that he could say such things in public. But I didn't do anything because I believe in live and let live (and the looks on the faces of the many other random people in Trafalgar Square showed me his message was not winning any hearts and minds, quite the opposite in fact). 

We have suffered police interference in our freedoms for many, many years. We should be standing side by side with anyone suffering similarly. But, as it would seem with the Alan Clifford issue, it is now LGBT people colluding with the silencing, shaming and persecution (for even though this is not quite at the levels of persecution faced by Christians elsewhere it is persecution nonetheless) of others. 

I remember when the LGBT group at a company I worked with was chastised by the company after a gay employee reported us for using the word "queer". When I attended the next meeting everyone was deeply apologetic towards this person (who had never, and did never, attend a single meeting of our group). I never attended another meeting, finding this cowardice in the face of idiocy to be too much to bear. When did we become the bad guys? When did we think that policing other people's thoughts and speech was in anyway acceptable? 

I understand the hurt these people cause. I really do. They deserve to be shunned by society and ignored by decent people everywhere. But we cannot silence them because we don't like what they say. The way to beat them is to defeat their arguments and win over more people to the side of sanity. 

I've spoken of the boot being on the other foot now. We've won so many battles that the power truly is in the hands of those on our side. But we must remember what the boot felt like from the receiving end and never use it. 

We have an opportunity to show just how superior we are to those who killed, persecuted and hurt LGBT people over the last few centuries. We can be the better people. We must be the better people. 

If that means I stand in support of Alan Clifford, anti-gay hatemonger that he is, then so be it. Freedom isn't just for those we agree with. It isn't just for us. It cannot be. Don't let us become the people we hated. 

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