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Comment: A Gay Council of Britain?

Stephen Price July 30, 2009

Almost on a daily basis, I pick up newspapers or read reports online that state, as fact, my opinion or the opinion of the country based on, (I assume), a small survey which I had no option to take part in. I give these opinion polls as much weight as any story that uses ‘a friend’ or a ‘source close to’ politicians or celebrities, but I’m growing tired of misrepresentation when it concerns ‘my’ opinion.

Which brings me to an issue that is raised time and time again in the comments of reports on – the misrepresentation of gay people in the media, often by gay people themselves.

Are you offended by Chris Moyles’ recent joke about Will Young? I understand that his humour played on stereotypes but sometimes bad taste makes for a good laugh. Policing humour is all well and good for those who want it, but Not in My Name.

I can think of one or two LGBT celebrities who I would gladly agree to let speak on my behalf, but time after time a new spokesperson emerges who I completely disagree with. Yes, Rupert Everett, you’re one of them – it’s not so easy growing up and living as a gayer when you’re working class or in another less-forward-thinking country is it?

In the words of Thom Yorke, “they don’t speak for us,” or, they do, but not all of us.

As a group, it’s naïve to think that the LGBT community can be represented by one body. There is no real community, after all, since we’re often only linked by our sexuality and, thereafter, the effect this has on our lives. Is there an answer to the one or two spokespeople we have putting words in our mouth, though?

Ben Bradshaw’s courageous calls for British ambassadors to promote gay rights in the Arab world highlights how narrow the outlook of ‘gay rights’ has been and still is for some. Do we focus too much on Christianity, too afraid to speak out against other faiths? And why is there not a louder voice concerning our inability to give blood?

Wouldn’t it be better, therefore, to at least come closer to a level of democratic representation? No two human beings are the same, but that doesn’t stop there being a Muslim Council of Britain, so what’s to stop there being a Gay Council of Britain?

Stonewall have been crucial in the fight for gay equality, helping to achieve the equalisation of the age of consent, lifting the ban on gays serving within the armed forces along with countless other successes such as raising awareness of employment regulations and civil partnerships. They are, no doubt, more than qualified to speak about issues concerning equality and gay rights, but they can’t speak for you and me on every subject – we alone are qualified to do that.

Peter Tatchell has long been a critic of Stonewall’s peaceful, less-provocative measures, stating his opinion in a Gay Times article that “lobbying MPs and writing letters, although worthwhile, are rarely newsworthy. To get media attention necessitates being provocative. The shock tactics of direct action are more likely to grab the headlines. They put queer rights on the political agenda, promote public awareness and debate, pressure the authorities, and build a momentum for change (which helps the work of lobbyists)”. Has he got a point, though?

He also argues that Stonewall “seeks equality on straight terms”, thereby robbing us of our unique identity, whilst also labelling them complacent. These two being on board might make for interesting Gay Council meeting then. Assuming no-one gets hurt or lobbied to death, they may even find some level ground? Hmm.

Imagine it now; a democratic body that invites discourse and something close to a backed-up voice for the often silent members of our community as well as the ones who manage to get their voices heard. News reporters might then ask someone who is thought of fondly for their opinion (and the opinion would be slightly more collective).

The Muslim Council of Britain sees itself as “an initiative of the community, led by the community, for the service of the community”. If we had one, would it not at least give us a more truthful voice? Would, then, this voice have greater standing and be more brave? Or would it provide just another excuse to put words in our mouth? You only have to look at the Muslim Council of Britain’s stance on homosexuality to see how limited its voice really is though…

Answers on a postcard please.

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