Batten Down the Hatches…

…the backlash is coming.

I’m talking about the battle for LGBT equality, which has picked up dramatically in recent years. Throughout the UK, Europe, and America, it seems there’s legislation and lawsuits being debated all over, and we’ve made incredible leaps and bounds. But sometimes it’s ‘two steps forward, one step back’.  There are only the barest handful of US states who haven’t already legislated LGBT equality (same-sex marriage; anti-discrimination laws) or who haven’t got such legislation being tabled right now. There are many reasons for us to celebrate, but it isn’t all plain sailing.

Kentucky only just agreed to recognise SSMs conducted legally in other states, but they’re also doing their best to push through legislation allowing discrimination against LGBT individuals if aiding them will offend someone’s ‘sincerely held’ religious beliefs. (Idaho are also doing the same thing, BTW.) That doesn’t just mean the florist and dressmaker and venue can refuse to cater your wedding, it also means that a doctor can refuse to treat you, or a clerk can refuse to issue you with legal documentation. Were such a law mooted for any other demographic, there would be rioting in the streets. Imagine a restaurant being legally allowed to refuse service to black people; a bus driver refusing to take Jewish passengers; a clerk refusing to grant a divorced woman a marriage licence. Or, for that matter, a Jehovah’s Witness surgeon refusing you a blood transfusion while you bleed out on their operating table. Whichever way you spin this, it’s shameful that such a law is even being considered.

But this is politics we’re talking, and it serves a politician’s best interest to keep as many people happy as possible. Gays get a bit shouty, so pass some half-assed legislation which almost treats them as equal citizens. Right wing gets shouty, so sneak in some extra legislation to keep them quiet and hope the gays don’t notice. Trust me, this is happening all over, and it’s only going to get worse before it gets better. In  the meantime, we need to be extra-vigilant about the small stuff to ensure we don’t actually end up worse off than we were to begin with.

But it’s not just politically that things are hotting up. I haven’t seen the old and oft-laughed-at lie that after a certain age all gay men become incontinent for years, yet in the last week alone I’ve seen it a dozen different times from a dozen different sources, always touted as fact. How and why this particular lie has raised its ugly head again, I don’t know, but clearly while there are fools out there to still believe it, it’ll keep coming back.

Indeed, bad science is often the first fallback of the homophobe: those who argue AIDS statistics or advocate conversion therapy. For the record, globally, simply because of greater numbers, it’s straight couples who have the most anal sex, and straight people who form the largest demographic of new HIV cases. Not that flinging a debilitating disease in anyone’s face is ever okay. Would these same people legislate against women because we have higher rates of breast cancer; or against men because that damn prostate is just a liability and a medical bill waiting to happen? I don’t think so, because for every other demographic there’s this thing called basic human compassion which stops most people short of cheering the misfortune of others. (WBC, I’m looking at you…)

But LGBT folk are different. We’re not human.

Another example. We’ve all been cheering on NFL hopeful Michael Sam for coming out this week, but his position on the CBS draft board dropped dramatically literally overnight. From one of the most promising players in the draft, suddenly he’s a liability.

And, as Irish drag queen Panti Bliss pointed out so eloquently, they’re even taking away our right to state what do and don’t feel oppressed by. I’m the first to say that words such as ‘bigot’ and ‘homophobe’ can be counter-productive and are bandied about far too often, but when we see a spade, let’s call it a damn spade. There has been a huge backlash against those words recently by the very people who most deserve to be called them, saying that their feelings are hurt and that we’re the bigots for not tolerating their intolerance. Because refusing someone’s right to marry is perfectly acceptable, but being called out on it isn’t.

But even if you think none of this affects you, if you’re not LGBT and don’t think you know anyone who is; if all you see are people on both sides getting shouty on the news over something that perhaps, to you, doesn’t seem a big deal, think again. If nothing else, think of the massive and ludicrous amount of public funds being spent on this: in legislators’ time, in court time, in legal fees, in promotion and protest on both sides. We’re only just coming out of a crippling recession, and still the right wing insists on frivolously spending time and money — money that could be funding social welfare programmes; improving schools; repairing transport networks, or any number of other things — trying to circumvent rights which are now enshrined not only in a SCOTUS judgement, but by prior precedent in countless other courts.

If we all sit back and do nothing, this will continue to happen.

Some people say the fight is at the end (at least in the west), and I hope to god they’re right. Just remember the old adage, It’s always darkest before the dawn, and don’t be surprised if things get a whole lot uglier first.

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