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Identity Tag

There’s an interesting tif going on at Indymedia. Someone put out a call for interested parties to come together to form a gay & lesbian animal rights group. As one commentor quipped, they weren’t sure if it was a group for gays and lesbians supporting animal rights or a group to support the rights of gay & lesbian animals. It’s the former.

One would think this is relatively uncontroversial. Not so. Many LGBT people are being alienated from the so-called “Left” by the aggressive homophobia displayed by some self-described “Lefties”. Indymedia is becoming, as another commentator put it, “a homophobic cesspit”. True to form, the person making the innocent inquiry was immediately accused of “narrowing confines of identity and sectional politics”.

The bile flowed until one prosepective supporter of the new group exclaimed: “i am sick of the heterosexist bullshit that straight activism involves, i want to work with people who get where i am coming from and do not exclude me, mock me, or make assumptions about me or my gender. i am glad to see this group is happening but sad to see you all proving just how badly groups like this are neeeded.”

One plonker who haunts Indymedia who goes by the moniker “Bermondsey Bill” (and a fine example of the paranoid, psychotic moonbat contingent that made me give up posting on the site years ago) says:

“Being a woman is a strictly empirically based definition. Being Black is a strictly empirically based definition. Being a Muslim is a strictly empirically based definition. Being gay is a boundless and subjective definition, which is so broad as to be meanless.” (sic)

No of course, this is nonsense. Sexual orientation is more or less fixed, whereas religion can be changed with the whims of fashion. Just ask Bob Dylan or Cat Stevens.

He was answering a comment left by one of the group’s supporters who noted:

“If a women’s group, a black group, a Muslim group or almost any group decided to organize around an issue, there would be none of this crap about “sectarianism” and “identity politics”.

Now this strikes me as true. If anything, sections of the left have refined communalist identity politics to an art form. It’s just the case that it is permissable to take gays to task over it because homophobia is the last remaining bigotry that parts of the left tolerate. Fighting it can’t be a shiboleth, don’t you know!

Interestingly, Bermonsy Bill has a particular dislike of Peter Tatchell and specialises in slurring and smearing Mr T. But no one takes Bill seriously, so I shan’t waste any time on that. But it is an interesting co-incidence that BB’s estimation of “being gay” might find some common ground (okay not much acerage as such, but a small potplant’s worth) with Tatchell’s latest provocative piece on Comment Is Free.

In a far more sophisticated way, Tatchell argues:

“Like every other expression of human culture, homosexual and heterosexual identities are historically transient. They haven’t always existed, and they won’t last forever. Indeed, the weakening, blurring and eventual dissolution of the labels queer and straight will be final proof of the demise of homophobia…..

“While same-sex behaviour has existed since the beginning of human evolution, defining oneself as gay is a relatively modern invention and is unlikely to prevail in perpetuity.”

As to what this implies, Tatchell argues:

In a future, more enlightened epoch, homophobia will be vanquished. Anti-gay attitudes will be deemed as ridiculous as flat-earth theories and opposition to votes for women. In this cultural context, the differences between hetero and homo will lose their significance.”

You can read his extended argument that gay is “just a phase” here.

In the meantime, many gays and lesbians – rightly or wrongly – will want to continue organising separately for a range of ‘not stricly gay’ issues and activities. Why? Because so many feel marginalised, patronised and dismissed by the mainstream. Tatchell is right to look ahead to a day when heterosexual and homosexual identities become irrelevant. But for the time being, it’s here to stay.

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