Posts Tagged ‘stonewall’

UPDATE: apparently The Spectator got it wrong and Nero has NOT been nominated for what they call ‘bigot of the year’. I am leaving this up though as others have called him a homophobe (and me). And as I don’t trust Stonewall!

According to The Spectator, Stonewall have nominated Milo Yiannopoulus, who tweets as  @Nero, as ‘homophobe of the year 2012’. Apart from the questionable ethics and purpose of holding such a competition in the first place, I think their nomination is stupid and actually pretty cruel.

Sharp witted readers will remember that I have criticised Nero in the past, for his slag-off of Johann Hari‘s adventures as a porn writer. 50 Shades of Gay might not have been the bonkbuster of the year, but I support people’s right to express their sexualities and opinions. Even Johann the Librarian.

And that is why I am defending Milos now. He is openly homosexual, and openly opinionated for example against the principles and practicalities of gay marriage. Stonewall’s conformist gay politics mean that to challenge the sanctity of gay marriage is to be homophobic, even if, as Milos is, you are gay yourself.

This is just replacing one fault, one wrong, with another! Picking on individuals who disagree with you, who live their lives in a way you don’t endorse, in a way you don’t understand, is what ‘anti gay’ ‘bigots’ do!

As gay academic Mark Mccormack has written, now that LGBT sexualities are more normalised in our society, the stigma has shifted. Being labelled ‘homophobic’ is actually as socially unacceptable as being homosexual was only decades ago. And adding to that stigma with ‘homophobe of the year’ competitions may not be such a cool move.

There are also issues here around  freedom of expression. Writing in the Guardian recently Suzanne Moore pointed out:

‘The terms “misogyny”, “anti-semitism” and “homophobia” may be useful but too often are used to shut down rather than open up online debate. This is why free speech is so difficult. ‘

So Stonewall’s nomination of a gay man who has spoken out against gay marriage as ‘homophobe of the year’ could be seen as an attempt to devalue that position, and to shut up people who hold it. Gay, straight whatever.

But the fact Milos identifies as gay/homosexual himself makes this a particularly sour tale. To start making examples of ‘your own’ and attempting to shame them in public seems pretty low.

Some gays oppose gay marriage, Stonewall. Get Over It.

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:


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!


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:

‘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’ .

‘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.