Another given of gay culture…

“Another given of gay culture is righteousness. Self-righteousness is perhaps an inevitable by-product of liberation movements, but gay righteousness is particularly offensive in its ability to be simultaneously apologetic and self-aggrandizing. Apologetic because it doesn’t challenge the structures of society, it simply says ‘straights are being horrid to us’ (repeatedly and at great length in the gay media). Self-aggrandizing because the mantra of oppression drowns out all else in its repetition, inducing an indignation out of proportion to the issue.” – Toby Manning (from ‘Anti-Gay’)

Or how the overwhelmingly white, male, Western ‘gay community’ refuses all self-examination and especially all critical appreciation of their privilege and clings onto a never-ending victim status based on their sexuality.

I briefly contemplated writing something for this, developing the theme that there is no uniform ‘Pride’ but rather lots of different days happening concurrently. Once you accept that the day is what you make of it and (ultimately) what you want it to be, I think it’s a lot easier to relax about the aspects of it which you may fight problematic. And everyone finds some aspects of it problematic.

Of course, the most common complaint is one which is mentioned by Stephen Kay in this piece:

I got a festival of hedonism tucked away in a fenced-off corner of a park, seemingly structured around stereotypes of gay men from 20 years ago. Fine, if you’re into drag queens, bubble-gum pop and binge drinking, but not much fun for the rest of us

The gay community’s problem with effeminacy and camp is one which better people than I have written about at length but, with specific regard to Pride, I can never understand why so many gay men (it’s always men) look for their identity in the people around them. Does the fact that there are gay men who love “drag queens, bubble-gum pop and binge drinking” have to particularly say anything about you as an individual just because you also like men? I don’t think so. Stephen goes on to complain that “Now we’re a demographic to be marketed to.” Again, a complaint which better people than I have tackled but it seems odd to complain that there are people different from yourself at a Pride event and then bemoan the fact that commerce treats all gay people as a homogenous mass.

Surely true equality is when we stop worrying about what other gay people say about us as individuals? It’s not something straight people seem to get vexed about. If your sexuality is merely an aspect of your being (an important aspect, undoubtedly, but an aspect nonetheless) then treat it as such and don’t build your personality around it and the ‘representations’ of it.

Comment is free readers on … attending gay pride

This is at once hilarious and really, really pathetic. It’s basically a regurgitation of  Johann Hari’s shit piece which I wrote about here:

with some added legalese taken from a Rainbow Hamlets press release on the same subject (which you can read here: )

There seems to be some war going on between various parties in the East End ‘gay community representative’ circle. For the record, leaving aside the Muslim aspect, I don’t really agree with either on this point. I think ‘hate crime’ legislation is always going to be messy because the very concept is messy. Messy and extremely unhelpful. I don’t think we need to beef up ‘gay’ hate crime legislation, I think we need to get rid of it all.

Anyway, let’s look at some choice sections of this press release:

  • The stickers (one sixth-A4 size) have been seen in several streets in Shoreditch, Canary Wharf and Hackney as well

Which is interesting, because only one of these areas falls entirely within Tower Hamlets. The vast majority of Shoreditch falls under Hackney Borough (as does Hackney, obviously). Homophobic crime has decreased in Hackney. And before anyone tells you that this means nothing because it’s a huge figure nonetheless, the 47 homophobic crimes the MET reports to April 2011 in Hackney compares with 317 Racist and Religious hate crimes, 130 rapes and 5900 cases of ‘violence against the person’.

  • People are upset that a coordinated, prolonged, multi-city attempt to define parts of the UK as Gay-Free Zones was treated as no more than mildly disorderly conduct

If this was ‘coordinated’ then the wicked people behind the conspiracy are truly the most inept planners…ever. Seriously, I could have done better. Some really shit stickers appeared in a few places and almost no-one knew they existed, and most people who knew they existed carried on their lives without giving it another thought. These shit stickers have been whipped up into some massive boogie man by people with an agenda.

  • There is a strong feeling that homophobia is being covered up, or ignored, in order not to ‘endanger community relations’

A ‘strong feeling’ from whom, exactly?! The 12 signatories of this release, several of whom have been deliberately exploiting this issue in order to demonise Muslims in East London for several months now? The guy was prosecuted for putting up offensive stickers. Statements from local gay people were read out in court. The judge said that he set out to “offend and distress. Worst. Cover-up. Ever.

  •  A comment on PinkNews says it all…

You know you’re in trouble when you resort to quoting comments from the shower of shite that is Pink News, with a bunch of commentors who wank each other into a frenzy with the idea that they are the Jews in Nazi Germany being ignored by ‘PC do-gooders’.

  • Such a light penalty would be unthinkable if we were considering groups operating across UK to create Jew-free, Black-free, Muslim-free or Christian-free zones.

It’s identity politics bingo! Let’s list a bunch of other minorities whom the NASTY PC DO-GOODERS are afraid of offending! Let’s ignore the fact that groups who do want such things frequently hold marches and protests with either no charges arising, or charges relating to public orderoffences after trouble kicks off. The idea that there is some conspiracy where racists, Islamaphobes and anti-religious bigots are being charged with hate crimes galore while homophobes run rampant is, quite frankly, risible. Laughter-inducingly so.

  • Human rights are for everyone or they are not at all

Except, presumably, when it’s some stupid kid who’s stuck up a few really shit stickers. Then we should lose all sense of perspective and justice and demand his head on a plate.

  • The “Gay-Free Zone” campaign was deliberately committed to fill gay people with fear in an area where they have already have been subject to vicious assaults and intimidation by gangs and ideologues for years

The FIRST time I have seen any of these people mention ‘gangs’, albeit not in an acknowledgment that the incidents (which overwhelmingly seem to occur in Shoreditch) happen in places with huge gang problems and all of the violence that comes from that. When I pointed out to someone that there had been stabbings just metres from the horrible attack on Oliver Hemsley which no gay person seemed to care about, I was told that they had ‘nothing to do with gay people’. Breathtaking. Apparently it’s fair enough if you’re stabbed as long as you’re not called a ‘poof’ while it happens. Then it’s time to MOBILISE. Stupid, blinkered and useless.

    • While it is often claimed that homophobic hate crime is ‘falling’ in Tower Hamlets, the most recent statistics released by the Metropolitan Police Service show that homophobic hate crime is UP in Tower Hamlets by 21% over last annual reporting period, from 67 attacks to 81; during the same period, religious/racial hate crime remained flat

This has already been tackled by several people ( and to mention two ). It’s worth re-iterating that homophobic crime has actually fallen in Hackney. It’s also fallen in Waltham Forest, another heavily Muslim area, while in Newham there have been 2 more incidents than last year. Westminster, Islington and Enfield (to name 3 boroughs which don’t exactly spring to mind when you think ‘Muslim’) have had increases between 26 and 75%.

As for the quite horrible effort to play homophobic crimes against religious/racial crimes – in Tower Hamlets the rolling 12-month figure for homophobic crime is currently 81 incidents. For religious/racial crime, it’s currently 352. Hardly worthy of the ‘everything’s fine there’ dismissive tone it receives.

  • Many gay people have been forced out of the borough, unable to cope with the harassment.

Seriously – WHAT?! A repeat of Johann Hari’s assertion in the pathetic ‘correction’ to his original article. Any evidence for this? Anyone? Anything at all? I suspect it would be along the lines of ‘my mate Bob left’. PATHETIC!

    • A particularly vicious attack – ignored by national media – occurred in late August 2008, when a 21 year-old art student, Oliver Hemsley, was butchered just after leaving the George & Dragon pub on Hackney Road in Shoreditch

Leaving aside the hysterical language, it was so ‘ignored by national media’ that the first page of google results for Oliver’s name brings up articles from the BBC, Daily Mail, The Independent and Sky News reporting it.

    •  15 year old, Nasrul Islam, was the only gang member to be brought to justice. Incredibly, the police released him on bail – only for him to mug a 12 year-old girl just days later.

Well that’s odd. Did he mug a little girl because he’s a homophobic Muslim? The judge in the case stated that ”This was an entirely motiveless, mindless attack. Its ferocity makes my blood run cold. He speaks with a degree of pride about his reputation with the boys, with the local community.” So a picture is emerging of a violent gang member in the area in question. Also of note is that the court reports tell of Oliver being attacked while en-route to an off-license, and not on his way to the nearby gay bar as these people like to report. When I noted the inconsistencies in the story with the ‘gay man attacked deliberately for being gay’ narrative, I was told by one of the signatories of this statement that I was ‘fine’ with the stabbing of a young man. This is the mentality of these people. You are either with them or you are a sympathiser for a rampaging homophobic menace which cares only about whether you are gay or not and nothing else.

    • The East London Mosque (ELM), the main mosque in East London, was quick to distance itself from, and to condemn, the “Gay Free Zone” stickers

But we’ll gloss over this, and the Mayor and other prominent Muslims’ support and participation in a Faith Communities and Homophobia Forum in May, cos that makes things a bit more grey than we’d like. Regarding the East London Mosque, they can speak for themselves with regards to the IFE :

    • We must stop assuming that the ELM/IFE represent the larger Muslim community

What a bizarre statement. Who said they did? If anything it seems to be these people who are so keen to lump all Muslims in with the ‘extremists’ they perceive to be running rampage in East London. If the vast majority of Muslims oppose and condemn the IFE and the Mosque itself condemns homophobia, I’m failing to see the point here.

    • In addition to its IFE connections, the ELM has also hosted numerous hate preachers who have promoted the most vicious homophobia imaginable over the years. 

A criticism which Peter Tatchell acknowledged they had responded to and led to them promising not to host any such preachers in future.

    • While it is doubtful that many gaybashers are regular mosque attendees


    • the ELM’s preachers have created an atmosphere in which hate is socially acceptable

Even in non-Muslim areas by non-Muslims, apparently. ELM is PRETTY POWERFUL! The article then ends with a flourish of homophobic utterances from a bunch of Muslims. Even though they’ve just acknowledged that most Muslims apparently oppose extremism and gay-bashers are unlikely to frequently attend the ELM. That’s some nice logic there.

I don’t wish my tone to imply that there isn’t a problem. Homophobia and violent crime should be taken seriously and should be tackled. This is not served by trying to exploit and distort events in order to pursue your own personal agenda and pit minorities against each other. It is certainly not served by ignoring the common root causes of violent crime and acting like the attack of a gay man outside the George and Dragon is completely unrelated to the shooting of a straight man outside Jam (which used to be directly opposite). Engaging with these issues means growing up and getting past the idea that the thing which makes you a ‘minority’ is the defining characteristic of your entire being and everything you do and everything that happens to you, then demanding that everyone around act in the same way and responding with fury when they don’t.

The current path the signatories of this statement are on is going to achieve absolutely nothing.

Anti-Gay Hate Crime Up 21% in Tower Hamlets: Gay & Feminist Activists Respond to Gay Free Zone Case

Nicola Roberts

I really, really do not understand the hold that Nicola Roberts has over a large chunk of teh gayz. She seems to be a moderately talented, moderately attractive, hideously stupid, right-wing…person. Yet she’s written about as if she’s Bjork, with words like ‘strange’, ‘leftfield’ and ‘alien’ being chucked around and a general consensus that she is a Good Thing. HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?!


Apparently there’s ANOTHER ‘kiss-in’ at the John Snow tonight. It seems there are a lot of people willing to be mobilised against ‘homophobia’ without spending even a cursory amount of time investigating the origins of their ‘outrage’ and the actions they’re signing up to. The more I read about it, the more I am convinced that there was no homophobia in what happened (a summary explanation which I posted elsewhere is below.)

The surge in ‘Twitter outrage’ in the past year or so is incredibly bizarre. It only ever seems to reach a superficial level and rests entirely on a very narrow ‘liberal’ identity of self derived from identity politics. The ‘promised land’ seems to be a place where we can all live without offence rather than achieving any real equality (a significant, substantive equality which recognises class structures and economic power as primary, not who we have sex with.) I’m not sure if it’s pushing people to express opinions on things that they think little about or if it’s just giving a platform to people who have never tended to do this. Either way, it’s a bit dumb. I’ve said it before – for all the shouting about ‘equality’ that certain people do, their entire sense of identity would be lost forever if people *really* stopped giving a shit about people being gay.

Re: the ‘incident’ (it was in response to someone demanding further action so I’m tackling their points):

I’m afraid this is a perfect example of what I said when I wrote about people being outraged without actually bothering to check the details of what they’re outraged about! The version of events that has taken hold (a gay couple kissed and were forcibly ejected) bears little relation to what we’ve been told: – The info about the complainant is here:

Firstly, I think it’s important to acknowledge that there WAS a complainant. Previously we’d been led to believe that the landlord just took exception, not that a member of the public made a complaint. The complainant’s description of their behaviour tallies with what my friend told me. She said that most people were indeed rolling their eyes and thinking ‘get a room’, but if someone complains then clearly that places pressure on the pub to do something, right?

Secondly, and crucially, you’ll see that both the complainant *and the guy who tweeted when ejected from the pub* acknowledge that they WERE asked to tone it down, and remained in the pub for at least an hour afterwards. If this was a case of bar staff taking offence to gay people, why on earth would they not just eject them immediately?!

Thirdly, in the original story the guys involved said they ‘refused’ a request to moderate their behaviour. They said they told the person who came over to ‘turn around instead’ and ‘took little notice’ and continued to kiss ‘not in a confrontational way, just on the mouth’. That’s a bit different from the version in this story, where they stopped, stayed for an hour and then were randomly ejected.

Fourthly, again originally they described their behaviour as nothing more than a ‘peck on the lips’. One of the SUPPORTIVE witnesses described it ‘full-on snogging, but not heavy petting’.

Next – no-one ever suggested that the John Snow had contacted police or requested police remove them. The police involvement (which only seems to appear in some versions of the story) was that when they were arguing with the landlady, a man in the pub identified himself as a police officer, showed a badge and said they had to leave if she asked them to.

Some other points – I’ve no doubt similar things have happened in other Sam Smiths pubs – because similar things happen in pubs across the country. The implication that there is some Sam Smith-wide policy on gay kissing is risible and an insult to all of our intelligence. There are several Sam Smiths pubs in Soho, myself and many other gay friends regularly frequent many of them without incident. And I have seen straight people being asked to leave pubs after kissing before (not Sam Smiths ones, but I’ve never witnessed anyone being ejected from one of them that I can recall.)

Yes, I do think the people involved should know best – but a) there are so many inconsistencies that it’s impossible for any of us to know exactly what happened, least of all those now trying to destroy the pub b) I don’t think just because someone believes they’ve been discriminated against, it means they have been. If you were asked to leave a pub for kissing, of COURSE you’d be angry and indignant, whatever sexuality you are. It doesn’t mean you were asked to leave because you were gay (and indeed gay people get ejected from gay pubs.)

Lastly, yes it’s odd that no-one from the pub has made a statement, but I don’t think this can be used as some damning evidence of guilt. Because really, it snowballed so quickly that if the pub stuck to their guns, said they weren’t homophobic and had every right to eject the pair, the people who turned up to the kiss-in (and countless others) would be demanding their blood. Perhaps an apology would have satisfied everyone, perhaps not, but maybe they don’t feel the need to apologise and are being stubborn. As for Sam Smith, I imagine they feel at arms length from the situation given their heavy presence in Soho without incident and the fact that the landlord makes the rules about who comes in and who stays, not them

Thoughts on ‘Born This Way’

Everyone else is doing it, so why can’t I?

After the premiere of the video yesterday led to another outpouring of utter drivel, I wanted to articulate my feelings about the whole ‘Born This Way’ thing. Not least because I know that some people who know me undoubtedly believe that my response to it is largely determined by ‘the Madonna factor’.

First of all, I will admit that I have been dubious about Gaga from the moment I heard ‘The Fame’. To be specific, I loved ‘Just Dance’ when I first heard it (when it was first heard in the U.S.) and downloaded ‘The Fame’ when it first leaked. I was immensely disappointed – most of the album is terrible. It also betrayed that what Gaga swiftly became was somewhat of an accident. You don’t make records like ‘Eh Eh’ if you’re intending to end up at ‘Bad Romance’. But end up there she did, and ‘The Fame Monster’ is undoubtedly a huge improvement on ‘The Fame’ and a great pop record in its own right. ‘Bad Romance’ will forever be iconic and was a perfect example of an artist taking their influences and building something uniquely theirs. It is brilliant.

  Now I could write a book about all of that, but onto ‘Born This Way’. It is a dreadful record. Clunking, patronising, lazy and downright stupid. I’ve heard it said that Lady Gaga has been racing through Madonna’s career – if this is the case then ‘Born This Way’ marks her swift arrival at Madonna’s humourless, worthy and superior persona (without the fun stuff inbetween). Where to begin?

Firstly, taken exclusively on its musical merits, the song is undeniably derivative and largely generic. No great crime, but when you’ve spent almost a year being told that this is going to be the greatest thing to have ever happened to music (by Gaga and by people around her) it’s understandable that this provokes a reaction against it. Now when you factor in the ‘gay element’, this takes on a new meaning. Gaga chooses to celebrate the ‘difference’ of homosexuality by returning to disco, the most stereotypically ‘gay’ music genre and one which every pop star who wants to appeal to a gay audience seems to run to at some point or another. It reminds me of ‘G-A-Y’ by Geri Halliwell, except Geri at least had the good sense to make it a b-side and not build it up as being akin to the Emancipation Proclamation beforehand. Already the difference Gaga is celebrating is a very narrow one.

It’s worth noting here that since the backlash against the song, many of Gaga’s ‘Little Monsters’ have been backtracking on the gay aspect of the song and arguing that it’s a wider anthem of tolerance. Yes, the lyrics are more general but to deny that Gaga (and her team) have specifically focused on the gay theme is either being completely stupid or completely disingenuous. I could trawl Google to provide countless quotes to illustrate this but I think it’s pretty self-evident. However, taking that wider theme, the song both patronises and fails. It patronises because it lists minorities in a ‘shopping list’ of difference where we are all interchangeable but the same in our ‘difference’. This celebrates nothing other than Gaga’s self-identification with ‘outsiders’ and, so, Gaga herself. I won’t add to the furore over her use of ‘chola’ and ‘orient’ but I have nothing intrinsically in common with ethnic minorities (except on a broader human level and arguably in terms of places in wider power structures, which I will look at in a second). What we see is a privileged (both in her race and her wealth) woman revealing more than she probably cares to about her very banal (and frighteningly deadening) notion of ‘difference’.

It fails because it does not even coherently follow through on this already misguided notion. Perhaps half-aware of the above argument, she adds religion, ‘white’ and ‘evergreen’ to the shopping list. In adding the powerful and privileged (and, not incidentally, those responsible for much of the oppression faced by the ‘different’) she reduces her point to nothing except ‘be happy’. The suggestion that the power structures in society are ‘born’ is actually counter-productive to any message of acceptance and neglects to tackle the reasons behind homophobia, racism etc, instead reducing all of the social, political and economic circumstances to the hilarious implication that bigots are also ‘born this way’ and should just…not be, while also reducing all identity to a one-note caricature based on a presumed biological foundation.

Clearly most listeners won’t delve this deep into the song, so what if it’s just taken on a superficial level? The one argument that I have heard wheeled out repeatedly in support of it is that it will help closeted gay children. This argument is invariably put forward by out and proud metropolitan gay men and as such I think it’s a ‘straw man’ argument that hides the true purpose of the record – that is, to take a specific gay identity and affirm it back at gay people, and thus commodify it. As I noted above, the difference Gaga celebrates is a very narrow one. It is one largely dictated by privileged Western gay men and one which takes its cues from mainstream gay culture. We must not forget that this culture is not the totality of any of us. It’s not even a small part, for many. Yet its success and position depends on the affirmation of gay people’s differences to, and subjugation at the hands of, everyone else. Gaga is celebrating ‘gay as victim’ and in the process reinforcing a central tenet of a commercialised gay culture. Much has been written about the pressure for gay people to conform to this, from ‘the body beautiful’ to the ostentatious display of wealth. Gaga reinforces every one of these points, identifying gay people with muscular dancers in designer clothes and raising product placement/endorsement to almost religious levels (and also largely ignoring lesbianism, save as titillation or as comedy).

Now, tackling directly the argument about gay children – of course I think it’s positive for gay kids to have role models. But why are we so willing to applaud the crumbs from the table of Lady Gaga and ignore everything else? Is a repressed gay child with a bigoted family really going to be helped by a woman who repeatedly identifies homosexuality with ‘freaks’, ‘monsters’ and aliens (the visual accompaniments to ‘Born This Way’ have underlined this point)? Sure, it may help cement a sense of victimhood and a fledgling desire to ‘fight’, but that is ultimately counter-productive. The fact is that in America (which is where we are always talking about) we have a President  who has explicitly reached out to gay children in speeches. So have many of his peers. He has appointed gay people to high-profile jobs in his administration. We have little to say about this. We have had little to say about the gay celebrities who have come out and…lived their lives. We have little to say about it because it is painting gay people as ordinary people who happen to be gay, and not fabulous angelic creatures who are scorned by all around them. Gaga is not an intergalactic social worker fighting homophobia in a vacuum. She is a pop star whose image and success is tied up in the notion of not being part of the power structure she undoubtedly is (which is also why she has gone to such great pains to downplay her wealthy background, and create urban myths around being a starving ‘artist’).

With ‘Bad Romance’, Gaga was winning me over. In stumbling so clumsily and stupidly into the realms of sexuality, identity and difference, she has re-affirmed all of her worst aspects.

And I didn’t even mention ‘Express Yourself’!

This article infuriates me. It’s lazy, and that is the most inexcusable thing for such an inflammatory article to be. From it’s ‘Can we talk about immigration now?’ Daily Mail-esque headline (because, you know, I’m pretty sure people have been talking about ‘Muslim homophobia’ for quite some time now. With zero sense of irony, the poll Hari links to was TWO YEARS AGO!) to its selective use of facts, it’s shockingly irresponsible.

It is irresponsible in ignoring the fact that bodies such as the Muslim Council of Britain, the East London Mosque and the Association of British Muslims all condemned these stickers. Indeed, the latter organisation went even further and said “There is nothing in the Qur’an against LGBT people.  Allah has honoured every son/daughter of Adam, so such a hateful message is not only morally and ethically wrong but actually unislamic.”

It is irresponsible in failing to explain the quite striking statement that “East London has seen the highest increase in homophobic attacks anywhere in Britain.” A quick Google search reveals stark headlines about soaring homophobic crime every year dating back to at least 2005. Is it perhaps possible that the ‘increase’ is down to a) increased efforts by the police to engage with the LGBT community and, linked to this, b) increased reporting of offences? It also fails to question any link between the gay population of various parts of the UK and an ‘increase’ – if homophobic crime is increasing across the UK, it’s logical it would increase more in areas with a large gay population (such as East London) than in other areas, no? And rise it has – apparently homophobic crime doubled in Scotland LAST YEAR, as opposed to a 28% increase in London in the past 4 years. Would Hari attribute the rise in Scotland to Muslim homophobia also?

It is irresponsible in treating homophobic attacks as a ‘special’ kind of attack, as if they exist in a vacuum. We already know that single men are by far the most likely to be attacked. Has this risen in East London generally? Without this knowledge the article is immediately meaningless. I read of stabbings in East London on a daily basis, but because they are typically seen as gang-related they are seen as nothing to do with homophobic attacks. If an entire area is suffering from a large incidence of violent crime, why would gay people be excluded from this?

Related to this point, is Hari saying that Muslim people are just more likely to attack gay men? Or is it rather that people from a certain socio-economic background are more likely to do so? Are middle-class Muslims running around East London stabbing gay men? If it IS related to socio-economic status then that tells us something, no? Would Hari attribute the violent crimes committed by Christians, agnostics, atheists etc to their spiritual beliefs? If I was to go out and mug a gay man, would this be because I was baptised? This goes to the hoary (but worth repeating) point that NO-ONE ever referred to the IRA as a ‘Catholic Terrorist group’ whereas the immediate reaction to any ‘Muslim’ political organisation is to immediately highlight the religious aspect (and presumed cause).

It saddens me that gay people are so willing to applaud articles like this without applying any critical thought. I don’t mean to downplay the importance of tackling the problem of attacks on gay men. But we do not exist in a vacuum, and however much some people’s sense of identity may depend on it, we are not a horribly oppressed minority. In tackling violent crime we should join as a community – a community based on shared space, values and empathy, and not sexuality – and tackle all violent crime. Simplistic articles like this do nothing to help with this.

Can we talk about Muslim homophobia now?