Posts Tagged ‘homophobia’

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Hello Campers! I’m continuing to develop my thoughts on that thorny topic of  sporno, anti-homophobia and metrosexual-machismo. While I do so I thought I’d show you an apt illustration of the theme.

Last week a professional  footballer came out as gay! Oh. Em. Gee. But before anyone could get the babycham out it was also revealed that he was giving up professional football. According to the Graun,

‘The former Columbus Crew and USA winger Robbie Rogers has announced that he is gay, and that he has decided to “step away” from his career as a professional footballer.’

So, although on  twitter Robbie said he was touched by how supportive everyone was to this ‘news’, and ‘gay academic’ Mark McCormack fitted this event into his thesis about ‘declining homophobia’ especially in sport, I was not so jubilant. It seems a shame to me that a young man coming out does so just as he is leaving the career for which he is well known. He’s not exactly becoming an ‘ambassador’ for gay and bisexual players by putting his boots on the shelf. I’m not blaming him. I believe that football, by its very sweaty, physical, passionate, sexy nature is already ‘well gay’. And until the ‘beautiful game’ ‘fesses up to that fact, out gay or bi players will be few and far between. But before I get down and dirty and grapple with this complex subject, I want to point out something else about Rogers’ announcement that I think is worth a mention.

Apparently,  ‘Rogers is starting a new position with Men’s Health Magazine  in the UK and he is also part of the ownership group for the clothing company Halsey.’ So the side of himself that he is finally openly celebrating is not necessarily his gayness, but rather his metrosexuality!  From what I can see, football is as conflicted about this contemporary tarty display that its stars like to indulge in as it is about sex itself.  Taking your kit off with your  mates and posing for Gay Times is all very well, but if you are actually… you know….gay or bi, it makes the whole exercise a little bit more threatening and destabilises the ‘macho’, ‘heterosexual’, camaraderie of most sports teams.

I am glad Rogers is now free to be himself. But that self, and the culture he inhabits, is a little bit more nuanced than most people will have us believe.

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This week is ‘anti-homophobic bullying week’, according to everyone’s favourite Gay charity, Stonewall.

Just as the feminists have been focusing on ‘woman-hating’ language lately, so the Gay activists are telling everyone to stop using nasty words against gays.

The suggestions for the week from Stonewall include:

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Schools: Make a personal pledge not to use homophobic language, and encourage others to sign up too. See how many signatures you can get over the course of Anti-Bullying Week. You might want to include the following points:

  • As a community, you will not use or tolerate homophobic language of any kind, including:
  • Any use of the word ‘gay’ to describe things that are negative or inferior, for example in phrases like ‘that’s so gay’ or ‘ you’re so gay’
  • Other insulting homophobic words and remarks designed to hurt others, whether they are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or straight

At Work: Challenge yourself and colleagues to go without your morning coffee during Anti Bullying week and donate the money you save to Stonewall!

http://www.stonewall.org.uk/at_school/antibullying_week_2011/6495.asp

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Apart from the fact that the main message from Stonewall seems to be: you can tackle homophobic bullying by giving money to Stonewall! I have a few problems with this campaign.

My first problem relates to my criticisms of the claims by ‘female columnists’ that woman-hating language is a specific kind of ‘hate speech’. Stonewall, like the feminists, are suggesting gay people are particularly victimised, with the use of ‘abusive’ language against them. Whereas I think language is used to attack people in all sorts of different ways, and claiming special victim status is wrong.

My second problem with the campaign is its focus on the word ‘gay’ as an insult, meaning ‘naff’ or ‘lame’. As Brendan O’Neill has explained in the Telegraph, it is gay people themselves who have celebrated and reinforced the naffness of gay culture:

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/brendanoneill2/100105608/no-wonder-children-use-gay-to-mean-rubbish-gay-culture-is-shallow-camp-and-kitsch/

‘But is it really such a mystery as to why the word gay has come to mean rubbish? It seems obvious to me. It is because gay culture is quite knowingly and resolutely lame. I don’t mean culture that happens to be produced by homosexuals, which includes some of the greatest art in history. No, I mean the stuff that passes for mainstream “gay culture”, foisted upon us by gay TV producers, filmmakers and magazine publishers, which is almost always shallow and camp and kitsch. That is, crap. If young people associate “gay” with “rubbish”, then they’re more perceptive than we give them credit for – they have twigged that, sadly, what is these days packaged up us as “gay culture” is almost always patronising pap.’




O’Neill is not the first to link ‘gay’ with ‘naff’. In the blurb for his 1996 collection (as editor) Anti Gay, Mark Simpson asked:

Have you ever wondered (to yourself, in private)… Why most gay culture these days is mediocre trash? Why so many lesbians have such a problem with long hair and dainty footwear? Why being gay is like being a member of a religious cult, except not so open minded?

So maybe kids, and it is mainly young people using the term ‘gay’ like this, who have grown up with Graham Norton and Gay Pride and Alan Carr, are just processing where gay culture is at, and associating it accurately with all things ‘rubbish’.

My final criticism of Stonewall’s campaign is the most important I think. The fact is language changes and evolves over time. So trying to police people’s use of words is at best futile, and at worst proscriptive.

Take the word ‘gaylord’ for example. It used to mean ‘high spirited’ .

http://www.behindthename.com/name/gaylord

‘From an English surname which was derived from Old French gaillard “high-spirited, boistrous”. This name was rarely used after the mid-20th century, when the word gay acquired the slang meaning “homosexual”.’

Again, Mark Simpson, my favourite Gaylord, has something to say about ‘Gay’ and how it is actually probably on its way out as a word that refers to a specific sexual identity.

‘ The Gays, for all their denial, know better than anyone what metrosexuality means. The beginning of the end of the gay identity. Straight men no longer need to project their own ‘gayness’ into gay bodies. They want it for their own, thank you very much. Gays no longer have to be gay for straights – so that straights can be straight. And however much gays may have reclaimed the dustbin identity of homosexual-queer-gay and fashioned something wonderful out of it, in the end it has outlived its point.’

So Stonewall’s campaign against homophobic bullying, is, in many ways, really just a desperate attempt to hold onto the ‘gay’ identity. And one way to do this is to hold onto the significance of ‘homophobia’ in our society. The two are interdependent.

Some people use the word ‘gay’ to mean naff. Get over it.