John Amaechi: London will see through ‘undesirable gays’ rhetoric

Stephen Gray February 1, 2012
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Openly gay basketball player turned psychologist John Amaechi has denounced the “casual clichés” employed by a Clapham residents’ group who opposed plans for Pride House at this summer’s Olympics.

He added that London would “see through this fear-mongering rhetoric”.

The Friends of Clapham Common said last month a gay Pride House event due to be held on the common was “highly likely” to become a “magnet for undesirable elements of the gay community”.

The group denied claims the objection, which was partly based on perceptions that the event was “exclusively” for the LGBT community, was homophobic, saying all communities have “undesirable elements”.

John Amaechi, who came out in 2007 following his retirement from NBA basketball and now lives in Clapham, said the idea of Pride House turning the common into a “den of iniquity” showed the group to be “out of touch”.

An ambassador for Pride House, Amaechi told the Wandsworth Local Guardian: “These comments by the ‘Friends of Clapham Common’ are carefully worded to avoid overt homophobia, but they certainly imply a narrow, outdated understanding of the LGBT community and their friends.

“Their objections are based on archaic stereotypes and a complete misrepresentation of the facts.

“Today’s LGBT community and their straight friends are as much about family and children, book clubs and Bikram yoga and indeed a fanatical support for the greatest sporting spectacle in our lifetime, as any other part of the community.

“To suggest greater numbers of ‘undesirable elements’ in the gay community is not only pure speculation, it’s an implicitly bigoted insinuation.

“The Pride House complex will welcome everybody, and age-old clichés casually asserting that the gay and lesbian families in attendance will somehow turn Clapham Common into a den of iniquity, only indicate just how out of touch this group is with modern Britain.

“Having personally lived by the common for a decade, I know the people of London will see through this fear-mongering rhetoric and come along to celebrate together.”

The claims were part of a Lambeth Council consultation on Pride House, which will include live music, entertainment, LGBT art, sports and tournaments.

Creator Chad Molleken said it would “welcome athletes, dignitaries, media, Londoners and visitors from around the world with a dynamic and entertaining programme in support of the LGBT community”.

20,000 people are expected to attend Pride House during the Olympics. Stephen Fry and Peter Tatchell are among the patrons of the event.

Representatives for the voluntary Friends organisation, which works to “protect and improve” the common, did not return messages from after the objection was made public.

Christopher Wellbelove, now a Labour councillor, told “This is a huge opportunity for Clapham and Lambeth to participate in London 2012, showing their support Team GB during the games together with LGBT athletes from around the world.

“The event will also be a stance against homophobia such as the very unfortunate comments in the objections by the Friends which I would be surprised if it was truly representative of the Friends as a whole.

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and will be seen by people around the globe demonstrating London (and Clapham) as a diverse community and promote inclusion and diversity which their comments only demonstrate the need for such an event.”

More: clapham, London, London 2012 Olympics

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