Sunday, 22 April 2012

The Guardian Gay Issue

Don't ever try and edit a post on your iPad.  I managed to delete this whole post earlier when trying to correct a typo.  Huge thanks to Alex who saved me by sending through the original text which is now back below.  Phew!

The Guardian carried a number of 'gay' Tories yesterday as part of their magazine 'gay issue'. A number of people have already commented on various social media platforms that the issue was very gay male focused and I think that's right. Although lesbians were covered (as the reference to 'sleeper-lesbians' demonstrates on the paper header) they didn't seem to be the central focus. Indeed, 'sleeper-lesbians' made them sound like a team of crack terrorists, ready to attack the nearest male meat vendor and disrupt the phallic dildo distribution network. We also had Alan Carr decked out as 'The' Queen on Liz's very own birthday. Republican/gay pride and all that.

Anyway, on to the content. The main piece was by the ever lovely Evan Davis - the openly gay presenter of the popular morning BBC Radio 4 show, Today. He wrote a piece 'Glad to be Gay, Glad to be Tory' which attracted quite a bit of RT action but for me seemed a tad meandering. The central question - which Davis fails to answer - is how such a historically homophobic party has also been stuffed full with homes (at least gay men at any rate). As someone who joined the Tory party at 15 (I'm now a member of the LibDems and a candidate in the local elections) and was also a member of TORCHE (the gay Conservative group before LGBTory) my reasons are as helpful - and as flawed - as any. I was interested in politics and in my neck of the woods that meant choosing between two parties - the Conservatives or Labour. The neighbouring constituency did have a strong LibDem group and so I took a punt and left a message for them as that was were I felt instinctively drawn. Of the other two, I was faced between a choice of a party that seemed to want to tell people what to do, and to treat everyone the same (Labour) verses a party that talked about opportunity, had a leader who genuinely knew what it was to work hard and succeed on your own endeavours and took an approach of giving people more control over their lives. Of course, the following years so the Conservatives drift to the right, and my own views (I think) have remained pretty much in the centre (although maybe more centre left these days). At no point was the issue of sexuality an influence on joining a party. However, I did manage to make the front page of that illustrious Lancashire rag, the Accrington Observer, in 1998 by calling for more people who identified as gay to join the party in a bid to make it more in touch, and more reflective of society. I was forced for resign and as I moved to university, I became disengaged from party politics, working instead first against top-up fees and then for the repeal of Section 28. My story is a personal one but it shows how perfectly rational joining the very party that introduced Section 28 can seem. It is for these reasons of complexity that - I think - Evan failed to find a clear and simple answer to his starting question.

Check out the Evan Davis Tory piece here.

On we move to a piece about gay parenting. I confess, I skim read most of it. This is as far away from my life and interest as reading about straight people and their children. This reaction served as a harsh reminder to me that although we still talk of 'the gay community' - always a problematic label - it is becoming more diffuse than ever before. What did strike me about the piece however were the images. They look very, well, posh. I felt like I was trapped in a Waitrose parenting supplement. I just know they will bore me with talk of granola and skinning holidays in real life. I don't sense any of these kids going to the local rough comp but I could be being entirely unfair. Of course, this is important not as part of some class bashing rant, but because it goes to the heart of our contemporary gay rights discourse. There is an assumption that we can all engage in surrogacy, and create this new families of choice. In truth, many of us - especially men - can't. It's a middle class homosexual activity. The rest of us are looking in, our noses pressed against the glass like some disgruntled street urchin seeking out the promised warmth inside. Oh well, back to the bareback party for the rest of us.

Check out that full piece (and the photos) here.

We also had a mea cupola from someone who tried to 'cure' gay people. The Times (£) also wanted to get in on the act and so the gay columnist - and former Tory MP - Matthew Paris who questions the simple tribe division between 'straight' and 'gay'. He is of course absolutely right in this regard and comes close to applying a queer critique. Unfortunately, he doesn't and instead the piece becomes rather muddled. Nonetheless, it does make a challenging and alternative intervention, worthy of a read.

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Stephen said...

The gay Tory thing missed out the idea that Conservatives can be very good - very welcoming - of "outsiders" at an individual level, but not so good at dealing with them as an anonymous group: they don't seem to be able to understand that a group is made up of individuals, and that a blanket anti-gay law (such as section 28) could harm people who they might see nothing wrong with, individually.

Mind you, Labour nationally might have made the right noises, but locally could be just as anti gay as the Tories; pro-gay policies were approved, but not very enthusiastically.

(I was a Labour supporter; now I vote for them, but mostly against the others.)


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