Archive for the ‘Racism’ Category

You can’t have failed to have heard the news. Obama, who originally took a firm stance against gay marriage, preferring the traditional view that marriage is between a man and a woman, has done a U-turn. His recent statement in favour of equal marriage has sent teh gayz into spasms of emotion similar to a reanactment of Torch Song Trilogy.

Andrew Sullivan, who has also done some U-turns in his life, as he used to be a Republican but now is all over poor Barack, said, choking back the tears:

‘I do not know how orchestrated this was; and I do not know how calculated it is. What I know is that, absorbing the news, I was uncharacteristically at a loss for words for a while, didn’t know what to write, and,… there are tears in my eyes.

So let me simply say: I think of all the gay kids out there who now know they have their president on their side. I think of Maurice Sendak, who just died, whose decades-long relationship was never given the respect it deserved. I think of the centuries and decades in which gay people found it impossible to believe that marriage and inclusion in their own families was possible for them, so crushed were they by the weight of social and religious pressure. I think of all those in the plague years shut out of hospital rooms, thrown out of apartments, written out of wills, treated like human garbage because they loved another human being. I think of Frank Kameny. I think of the gay parents who now feel their president is behind their sacrifices and their love for their children.’

I think the ‘gay lobby’ and their media supporters have been very clever here. It looks to me as if Obama didn’t have much choice. The tide of opinion was growing in favour of gay marriage. To continue to oppose it would have lost him votes. But his basic political manoeuvre has been adopted and appropriated and turned into a huge victory for the gay rights lobby.

Not only that, they have transformed Obama from a quite cautious, traditional family man into ‘THE FIRST GAY PRESIDENT’! The photo of him on the Newsweek cover with a rainbow halo is nothing if not striking, and… gay. The conflict with Obama has been buried in a pile of rainbow dust and everyone is happy…and gay.

But I notice a few problems with this gay rhetoric. One of course is that speeches such as Andrew Sullivan’s above privilege ‘gay’ people and the ‘gay’ identity over all other minority gender and sexuality identities. If you are bisexual, or trans, where do you fit in to this big gay festival? Trans people’s rights are not prioritised in America. Murders and violence against trans people happen at a far higher rate than the ‘gays’ would care to mention. And some gay people are as transphobic – and biphobic – as any straight ‘homophobe’.

The second thing I notice is Sullivan, and Newsweek, are tying the knot with Obama in a quite sickly way. It is as if ‘gay’ politics are the only politics in the world. What about Obama’s healthcare policies? What about foreign policy? That is all swept aside for the Big Issue – gay marriage. The way Sullivan suddenly decides he is part of Obama’s ‘family’ is comical. As if now things such as ethnicity and racism play no part in American society (or indeed in gay politics which can be racist). They are all one big happy family, bro!

Indeed racial analogies have been used by gays in their campaigns for gay marriage a lot. The ‘back seat on the bus’ metaphor has been doing the rounds for a while, as has the references to ‘apartheid’. (click on image to enlarge)

I think it’s pretty grim to be honest. And Obama may well be feeling a bit pressured by this group of white, middle class liberals (the gays and their allies), to perform to their tune. When he also has to woo black voters, republican voters, and… yes, homophobic voters! As I have said before the right have caricatured Obama as the metrosexual president and this latest move will have only made matters worse from their point of view. I would not want to be in Obama’s rainbow coloured shoes just now.

One person who is keeping rather quiet about this turn of events is [redacted]. He has been vocal against gay marriage, though he seems to have softened a bit recently (not to the extent of Obama though). Back in 2008 [redacted] suggested that the gay marriage campaigns in America were ‘on the rocks’ so it could be that he just doesn’t want to admit that he has been proven wrong. Or at least that times have changed. Also there are some ‘gay politics’ going on in the UK that even I don’t understand. Maybe [redacted] has some juggling to do as well as Obama.

Me, I don’t welcome the news from the States. But I am not going to lose sleep over it either. I would celebrate with my ‘bros’ if Obama closed Guantanamo like he said he would. But I don’t think I have Andrew Sullivan or many liberal white gays on my side there.

Tweet from Callum TH calling M Simpson an ‘uncle Tom’.

I was slightly shocked to see the above tweet very recently, accusing Mark Simpson, author of Anti Gay of being a gay ‘uncle Tom’.  I was partly surprised, because AG was published a long time ago, back in 1996. Whilst Simpson did get a lot of stick at the time, and some wonderful monikers such as ‘the gay Anti Christ’, all that is in the past. Even Simpson himself rarely mentions that book anymore.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin  is the title of an 1852 novel (and I thought 1996 was a long time ago!) by Harriet Beecher Stowe. It is famously an anti-slavery tract, and has been cited as influential in the achievements of the abolition movement. I have not read the book, but all the literary criticism of it I’ve seen is quick to emphasise how complex the narrative and its politics are. ‘Uncle Tom’ is a black slave who does not resist the power of his masters, but he is not judged or mocked for this by the author. None of the characters are simplistic.

Since then, identity politics seem to have become particularly crass, and the term ‘Uncle Tom’ is used simply to mean a ‘traitor’ to your own. So Simpson is a gay ‘uncle Tom’ who has let down his gay brethren. I, too, have been called an Uncle Tom in relation to feminism. This thread at the Feministe blog shows just how much I have been cast as a turncoat in relation to the ‘sisterhood’ (click on image to enlarge):

Apart from it being used to put down anyone who does not toe the politically correct line, I find the Uncle Tom phrase particularly grim from the perspective of its relation to racial politics and black people’s civil rights. There are lots of examples of especially white middle class gay men I find, comparing their ‘plight’ to that of black people. And finding themselves to be more worthy victims! Patrick StrudwickPeter Tatchell  are all guilty of this ‘oppression olympics’ I think:

Even Camille Paglia, who is supposed to have quite a sophisticated and irreverent approach to identity and politics, has fallen into the lazy and mean Uncle Tom habit. She said this of Foucault a few years ago:

‘When I pointed out in Arion that Foucault, for all his blathering about “power,” never managed to address Adolph Hitler or the Nazi occupation of France, I received a congratulatory letter from David H. Hirsch (a literature professor at Brown), who sent me copies of riveting chapters from his then-forthcoming book, “The Deconstruction of Literature: Criticism After Auschwitz” (1991). As Hirsch wrote me about French behavior during the occupation, “Collaboration was not the exception but the rule.” I agree with Hirsch that the leading poststructuralists were cunning hypocrites whose  tortured syntax and encrustations of jargon concealed the moral culpability of their and their parents’ generations in Nazi France.’

Well Foucault is dead. He can’t stand up for himself against such accusations. Foucault’s Daughter can. He was a child during the occupation and had no responsibility for it, or for bringing it to a close. His work on ‘power’ continues to this day to be useful to people opposing oppressive regimes. He has nothing to be ashamed of.

I watched this great video recently, by two performance poets, about being short men.

I am a relatively tall woman, and I have to admit to having a prejudice, not against short men per se, but against dating them. And that is enough of a prejudice to count.

In his brilliant satirical way, Randy Newman wrote a song, ostensibly about ‘short people’, that is actually a very clever comment on prejudice in general.

It reminded me of a conversation I had over at Heresy Corner blog, about a bunch of students winning a case where their imagery for their society was being threatened with censorship by Muslim groups.

The discussion made me think. Which is still, even in this facebook age, a good thing!

Update: the president of the (atheist) society in question has just resigned!

I received a group email from Peter Tatchell today. This is what it said:

London – 22 August 2010

Dear Pride London,

East London LGBT Pride – Saturday 1 October 2011

Earlier this year stickers were plastered around East London declaring it a ‘Gay Free Zone’, warning that Allah’s punishment for homosexuality is severe. Previously, there had been a series of horrific homophobic attacks outside the local George and Dragon gay pub. In one  assault, a 21 year old gay man, Oliver Hemsley, was battered over the head with a glass bottle and stabbed seven times, leaving him permanently paralysed and disabled:

These gay-bashing attacks coincide with a dramatic decline in the number of gay venues in East London and some LGBT people moving out of the area because they feel it is no longer safe to live there.

The response of the LGBT community to this homophobia has been feeble. There has been no visible protest and no public affirmation that East London is not, and will never be, a gay-free zone.

The suggestion that LGBT people have to tolerate homophobia for the sake of preserving good community relations and not upsetting certain communities, is totally unacceptable. It is a shabby capitulation to prejudice and a shameful betrayal of the generations of LGBT people who have fought for our equality and human rights.

Every victimised community has a moral right – and a civic duty – to fight back against their bigoted oppressors.

People who oppose an LGBT Pride march in East London would never dare tell the Black, Asian or Jewish communities that they should not protest against discrimination and violence. Why are LGBT people expected to forego their right to protest while other victimised communities are not?

I therefore urge you to organise an East London LGBT Pride march and rally, working in cooperation with local LGBT groups.

I suggest that the East London Pride theme is: “Unite against all hate” or “East London United” or “Gays & Muslims united against hate”.

We want to the event to be inclusive and unifying. Black, Asian, Muslim and Jewish organisations should be invited to participate and to provide speakers for the post-march rally.

This rally should explicitly oppose all prejudice and hate, including racism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, misogyny, transphobia and the victimisation of Muslim people.

We should specifically advise that the EDL and BNP are not welcome and should not attend. If they turn up, we should liaise with the police to remove them. We want nothing to do with their politics of bigotry and division.

Moreover, no racist, nationalist or far right symbols should be permitted. For example: no Union Jacks or St George’s flags.

Please give me your feedback.

Best Wishes

Peter Tatchell


This is my reply:

Dear Peter,

I used to be an admirer of yours. In some ways I still am, for your sheer energy and determination if nothing else. But in the 1980s and early 1990s I think you were at the forefront of a queer politics of resistance that I could completely get behind. I only read Anti-Gay, edited by Mark Simpson recently, but I heard in your chapter, the voice of  the kind of activist I remember you being. Brave, intelligent, and ‘non-partisan’. Your eloquent challenge to the ‘homogenous’ gay identity reminded me (maybe you even quoted it?) of Christopher Isherwood’s comment:  ‘we’re all queer in the end’.

But times, and you, have changed. The email I received from you today about the East London Pride plans, galvanised me to break my respectful silence and speak out. Call it my ‘civic duty’ if you must.

My main problem with your current work is that you seem to be constructing a ‘gay’ identity that is narrow, elitist and well, maybe even ‘racist’. You suggest that a slogan for East London Pride be:

“Gays & Muslims united against hate”.

But this suggests that ‘gay’ is an ‘ethnicity’ or even a ‘religion’, totally separate and distinct from ‘Muslims’. What if you are a gay Muslim? Or a Muslim gay? Or, dare I say it, bisexual? Isn’t the term ‘gays’ in itself excluding most queer people? Sure you refer to the ‘LGBT’ initials elsewhere in your email, but your slogan suggestions and the tone of your letter, are very … Gay.

This paragraph stood out to me in particular:

‘People who oppose an LGBT Pride march in East London would never dare tell the Black, Asian or Jewish communities that they should not protest against discrimination and violence.’

Here, I think you are taking part in that well-known sport, favoured by Gays and feminists in particular: ‘oppression olympics’. Pitting the ‘gays’ against ‘Black, Asian or Jewish communities’ in a competition for who is the worst treated is just crass. And, in the wake of the riots in London and other cities, incredibly insensitive to some of those communities which were hardest hit by the violence, its social context and its aftermath. Again, some gay people are Black, Asian or Jewish. They do not live in a separate ghetto. Unless they live in Soho, or Hampstead, or Crouch End…oh.

Because that’s the problem here isn’t it? ‘East London’ covers quite a large, diverse area, that includes some prime spots for living and being in the capital. I don’t want the area to be a ‘gay free zone’ (though with Hoxton and Shoreditch I don’t see how that is ever going to be possible. They are two of the gayest places I know). But I do think you and your comrades might show some sensitivity towards the real, inner city and London-specific divisions and struggles over space, identity and making a living in those areas. The Bangladeshi community around Brick Lane know a few things, for example, about moving out of an area because ‘it is no longer safe’ (or affordable). And (often poor) workers in the adult industries have been affected by the recently implemented ‘nil’ policy in Hackney, which means no new ‘lapdancing’ establishments will be licensed there.

Here is someone else playing ‘oppression olympics’- Jane Martinson in The Guardian on Ken Clarke’s comments about rape law a few months ago. I think you will recognise her technique:

‘By using words such as “serious” and “forcible” for only some rapes in one tetchy four-minute radio interview, the most senior legal politician in the country underlines all that is wrong about rape and the criminal justice system in this country…

To understand this, just imagine Clarke saying similar things about murder or other kinds of assault. Few politicians or lawyers talk about murder victims asking for it or of assaults that aren’t violent or indeed serious. His comments feed into the belief that women who report rape are lying, that reporting a rape is relatively easy and that some rapes aren’t really rapes at all but, I don’t know, kinky sex?’

Basically Jane is saying ‘it’s all right for murder victims; they don’t get blamed for their murder unlike rape victims’.

That is the ludicrous and inevitable conclusion of your kind of argument.

Your plan for the demo is also very prescriptive/proscriptive: no union Jacks, no EDL members. If you are organising an event that could be appropriated by overt racist organisations, does that not give you pause for thought about the motives and values behind the demo itself? If you have to actually tell those people not to turn up? I have been on plenty of demos, and I cannot think of one where ‘fascists’ would even have considered coming along, except to oppose and intimidate the demonstators.  Is ‘gayism’ racist? Isn’t that at least a question worth asking at this point in time?

There is more I could say. I have been holding this in for a long time. But I will keep this as succinct as possible.

I remain a respectful admirer of your previous incarnations as a queer ‘revolutionary’ figure.

But I am now a ‘furious faggot’, and I am furious about where that ‘gay’ politics has taken you/us.



A World Apart

Posted: August 10, 2011 in Racism, Riots
Tags: ,

This is an interview by a BBC journalist with Darcus Howe, the journalist, writer, broadcaster (Or Marcus Dowe as she calls him mistakenly at one point).

I found it incredibly depressing viewing.

The man is obviously distressed (maybe he has not slept due to worry or the sound of sirens and smashing windows), about the violence that has hit his local community and those of his family and friends. He is also a man of Afro-Carribean origin who has lived through many phases of ‘violence’ with regards to the diaspora in Britain.  He’s not stupid.

But the journalist, a white woman who probably has not have lived through much violence at close quarters (I do not know for sure but if she has she is even more insensitive), treats him as if he is. Stupid, and also potentially violent.

The part of the interview that upset me the most was where Darcus described his grandson, and how he has been frequently stopped and searched by police, for no apparent reason (other than the colour of his skin and where he lives?). The journalist said ‘but that’s no excuse for rioting’. As if Marcus’ grandson was without question one of the rioting ‘youths’. As if all black young men are the same. As if they all are responsible.

If  this situation has illustrated one thing it is how people in the UK may live together side by side, they may take the same tube trains and go to the same Tescos, but they are often living A World Apart.