Homophobia, like assorted -phobias and -isms is hard to pin down. It is not always manifestly of the Norman Tebbit variety. Sometimes is can be quite subtle, so subtle in fact that the accused could credibly protest that they’re being falsely charged. Now I don’t mean this to sound like some Kafkaesque conundrum. It’s actually quite easily explained if people are willing to halt the outpouring of rhetoric and prepared soundbites, take a deep breath, pause and listen.
It is possible to be fully in favour of gay rights – and indeed some of your best friend may be gay – and still suffer from a low-key type of homophobia that only manifests when there is a conflict between equality for gay people and one’s other agendas. It is the so-called ‘totem pole’ approach to equality. Gay people often find themselves on the very lowest rung, particularly with supposedly ‘Left’ figures like George Galloway.
For example, contrast the horror that “nigga” is being used as a slang term to the excuses made for the term “gay” being chucked around the playground to mean something bad or pathetic. Compare the excuses made for Iqbal Sacranie’s antigay outburst to the storm over Robert Kilroy-Silk’s anti-Islam comments.
Like I said, many of the people expressing outrage in one situation, but mumbling excuses or evasions in the other wouldn’t count as ‘homophobic’ in the Tebbitian sense, but what is it that makes them totem-pole their causes and place LGBT at the bottom? (Ken Livingstone, for example, had a Senior Race Advisor and a Policy Adviser on Asian Affairs, and another on Women’s Issues. No LGBT advisor though.)
Sometimes I feel the chief reason LGBT issues are given lip-service in many Left circles (but that is not to say all, because many Left groups are genuinely supportive) is because ‘gay rights’ was some sort of shibboleth.
That is, until Lindsey German shot her mouth and made this obvious. While she was in favour of “defending gay rights”, she spat, she was “not prepared to have it as a shibboleth”. In other words. if it were necessary to underplay or de-emphasise in order to work with viciously homophobic groups in pursuit of a higher goal, then that’s what she and her fellow travellers would do. But, for example, many white working class people are racist, but there is no suggestion that anti-racism is a mere shibboleth.
Like it or not, these double-standards are homophobic.
So when people like George Galloway claim that they have always been supporters of gay rights, it doesn’t necessarily mean that much. Let’s review:
In February 2006, Pink News asked Galloway about his extremely poor record on voting for gay issues in Parliament. Galloway had missed 80% of important gay rights votes, including the repeal of Section 28 and the introduction of Civil Partnerships. His lame reply was:
“I was probably somewhere else, there was never any doubt about the passage of the civil partnerships, I wholly support it. In fact, I’m going to one in the next couple of weeks.”
Of course, expecting Respect’s only MP to actually turn up for important votes like these was optimistic considering they’d dropped gay rights from their election manifesto. When some Respect Party rank-and-file objected, Lindsay German accused them of being “Islamophobic”.
The most support the supposedly “left” of Labour party could come up with was a bland cover-all statement under “other policies” on their website. Right up there with Animal Rights and assorted “other” policies. The hope was, I suspect, that chief funder, Dr Mohammed “Dancing Cows” Naseem, wouldn’t think to look there. Dr Naseem, you will recall, was an executive member of both RESPECT and the Islamic Party of Britain, which suggested the death penalty of homosexuality.
Bizarrely, while all this was done to shore up the support of the most reactionary sections of the Muslim community who might be frightened off by all this talk of sodomy, George Galloway himself seemed woefully ignorant of the existence of Gay Muslims. From Pink News, 21 February 2006:
““On the problems facing gay Muslims in Britain, Galloway was remarkably ill-informed. He appeared to be unaware of the existence of gay groups within the Muslim community: “Are there any?” He asks, when I tell him there are a handful, he adds: “they haven’t contacted me but I’d be delighted to work with them.”
Not having actually heard of a gay Muslim group is rather regrettable, considering the wide range of Muslim groups he works with in RESPECT, coupled with the fact that perceived LGBT and Muslim tensions were a large part of the controversy surrounding RESPECT.
So you probably won’t be surprised if reminded of the little incident in 2004 when RESPECT formed an electoral alliance with the People’s Justice Party, and sent out letters instructing RESPECT members to “vote People’s Justice Party (PJP) for the elections to Birmingham City Council.” But it wasn’t long before the PJP were caught distributing antigay literature to drum up votes. Their leaflet said:
“”Another Lib Dem policy not in favour of the British Muslim community is the teaching of gay sex education to your children at a very young age. The Lib Dems are also in favour of equal rights for gays and lesbians. DO YOU WANT THIS?”
Never should red faces have been redder.
But that would assume they were embarrassed. But with Galloway’s clan (no split in twain) that would be expecting too much. Even before this latest shameless shill for the Iranian theocrats, Galloway was punting that message.
“We took a prominent Canadian politician, Sven Robinson [to Iraq], who made a speech which opposed sanctions, opposed the upcoming war, and then launched an attack on Iraq for a perceived witch-hunt against gays and many people said to us afterwards, if you had only have spoken to us about that you would have found out in practice that’s not true at all.
“Obviously homosexuality is disapproved of in the Koran as its disapproved of in the bible and I don’t know, but I presume also in the Torah. Therefore the official position of Islamic states is always going to be well short of what you want.
“I don’t think you should be surprised that in explicitly Islamic countries, the Koranic injunctions against homosexuality are the official policies of the state, none the less, many homosexuals continue to practice their way of life, mostly without intervention from the state.”
And there we have it. Back to the totem pole that puts race on top, followed by religion and culture, and then, as we get towards the bottom, women’s issues and finally human rights for gay people.