Posted by: stelladuffy | April 4, 2012

getting over it

I wasn’t going to blog today. I REALLY don’t have time to blog today. But …
A friend said on Facebook this morning that she thinks Stonewall‘s “Some people are gay … get over it” campaign (posters, billboards, sides of buses!) is ‘entirely the wrong message’.
She said :
“Shouldn’t we calm the fires, rather than pouring more fuel onto them? Not by staying quiet, no, but with messages that help people understand, rather than piss them off.”

And I do understand that she is coming from a place that says dialogue is better than fighting (agreed), that upsetting people is unlikely to bring them on side (agreed), and that we will make more progress when we’re all working together (hell yes, agreed agreed).

And yet …
Slavery didn’t stop because the slavers one day woke up and thought they ought to be a bit nicer to their fellow man.
The Civil Rights campaigners in the US in the 1960s didn’t sit back and politely explain how nice they thought it would be if they were given the vote.
The women who got women the vote didn’t sit back and ask to be given the vote.
The countless men and women who lost their lives fighting fascism in WW2 didn’t sit back and ask if the nasty Nazis might just stop killing Jews, gays, disabled, socialists in their millions.
And on and on.

So why, when LGBT people are still being beaten to death in British streets, when our children are being bullied in school playgrounds, when more than 200 million gay people worldwide live under regimes where homosexuality is illegal (and in six of those countries the penalty is death)*, when lesbians are subjected to forced marriage and ‘corrective rape’, when young men are hanged for their sexuality, when people are deported for their sexuality, when (oh little enough, I know, I know, but still) when I still can’t marry the woman who has been my partner for 21 and a half years – why am I asked to be careful? To make sure that I don’t offend people? Why does one of the contributors to my friend’s facebook discussion say ‘Gay politics needs to move out of adolescence and into adulthood’, comparing the campaign to children ‘throwing tantrums’?
Why am I asked to talk softly to those with power?
Why do I need to be gentle with the feelings of those who never consider my feelings? Of those who would deny me the same rights they have, rights they so often take for granted?
Why is it my job to help the haters understand? Why ask people of colour to fix racism, when it’s a white problem? (And yes, I know we do, all too often, doesn’t make it right.)

My Buddhist practice teaches dialogue, dialogue, dialogue, and I really believe in it. I agree with that teaching. I strive to practice it. (Hell, I’m the one who agreed with the women from the Coalition For Marriage – ie, the anti-Equal-Marriage lady, with me on Newsnight, that she and I would far rather have had a conversation than a set-up and badly-managed ‘debate’. We even hugged as we parted.) But my practice also teaches that taking a stand is needed at times. That standing up for what we believe in makes a difference. That speaking out against injustice is vital.

So no, I don’t mind if someone finds the ‘get over it’ part of the campaign a little hard to take. Because I’d far rather the suicidal gay 14-year-old knew they weren’t alone than be scared of speaking truth to power.

You know the phrase ‘speak softly, carry a big stick’? Well I don’t carry a stick. Nor do I intend to. There is no-one I want to hit. But I fully reserve the right to raise my voice and be heard, sometimes in a provocative manner**, especially in a world where so many are forced by fear, danger, repression and violence to be silent.

(and I don’t even like this picture!)

* from Ben Summerskill’s introduction to the Stonewall fundraising dinner 2012

** though I don’t think ‘get over it’ is remotely provocative language. I can think of FAR more provocative language than that!!


Responses

  1. Some people ask why I am so out, have a public blog, write trans poetry on the Internet, or comment that I am so brave or courageous. No I’m not!! I’m just saying treat me with respect and it will help someone else feel safe to be authentic. A few more people will have come to understand and be less afraid of the differences people like me throw at them.

  2. Yes. That.

  3. I think it speaks volume about your interlocutor. There was a program on the French radio re the issue of marriage equality in the coming election and one of the guests described it as a “douloureux problème” (a term already used by a famous journalist in the 80s), making an issue a problem, and a painful one. Luckily there are a few voices around (I’m directly pointing at you here) to confirm it’s okay to be gay. And it is necessary to be loud about it. So thank you!

  4. I’m with you Stella. I’m not gay, but I have many friends like you who are. And what really gets me, is when I look at a lesbian couple in our little village here, or the two guys who recently left, or the older couple of gay gentlemen over the road, or other friends I’ve met over the years – is the fact that they are still in loving, caring relationships. And so many of those who sneer at gay marriage are on second or third marriages.
    So yes. You have to fight to keep the issues up there. Otherwise they will be forgotten.
    Good luck with it, girl.

  5. thank you thank you. xx

  6. Honey – I saw the poster campaign on the tube last time I was in London. And really I thought that it was brilliant. Why? Because it posits the possibility that another person’s sexuality should not be a concern, a bother or an irrantant to anybody else. And surely that is the direction in which we need things to move this issue. “Get over it. It doesn’t need to bother you.”

    Why is it that my sex life with my wife concerns (and troubles) her parents so much? Do they spend one second thinking about the sex life that her hetero brother has with his wife? I don’t think so!

    So for me this campaign is a breath of fresh air – and one that I believe can really work. Especially with the generations who are much younger than us. Who are much more accustommed to assessing any situation, working out what there iswithin it that needs to concern them – and then moving on.

    Is the campaign too combatitive? I really don’t think so. I think the style of the message fits with a younger mindset – which is great! Let’s start there and work our way up the age tree.

    And finally – do we have the right to raise our voices in order to be heard? You’re damn right we do. Why are the rights that I’m afforded any different to the rights afforded to my twin sister – who is identical in every way to me – down to her DNA. The only difference is with whom she chooses to sleep with.

    Let’s all keep fighting. In a gentle, informative way, of course. But nothing changes by itself.

    xxx

    PS here in Brazil – a very homophobic country – the trend these days amongst teenagers is to date a girl one week, a boy the next etc. At our son’s birthday party recently a girl spent most of the night snogging her boyfriend. When he went home, she grabbed her best friend (a girl) and started snogging her. That’s the way to start a revolution!😉

  7. yay! snogging our way to equality!! xxx
    (and I do love the ‘our son’, Caren!) xxx

  8. Well I’ve seen three buses this morning (yes nothing then they all come at once!) around Shepherds Bush and it really brightened my day. I think its extremely important to push the message simply and in a public way. I’m finding the fact that there is even an argument over gay marriage depressing. I think we have to be vocal, lets face it the catholic church had no issue in making its priests read out a letter condemning gay marriage which I find quite upsetting. I’m catholic and lesbian, despite what my church says my faith is within and I see nothing wrong in who I love. But I’m feeling very “got at” by what my church is saying.
    So all in all I think you’re absolutely right and where did you get your t-shirt I may have to buy one!!

  9. thanks for that. I was given the t-shirt for a Stonewall photo shoot. but am sure they sell them somewhere.

  10. I often think, good for you Stella for using your position and influence so positively.

    Without naming names here, I was outraged when I read the following quote from a well-known public figure, who was told in an interview ‘you have to be the most glamorous lesbian couple in Britain’ and who responded:

    ‘Is that difficult?’ She then went on to say, ‘’[w]hat do I say to that? I don’t go hanging around with other gay women. I don’t know who else is out there. It’s just not my social life. It’s just not the way we live. I don’t do the scene or whatever it is.’

    I was actually shocked that someone who has benefitted from the gay movement (she is in a civil partnership) wishes to so firmly distance herself from gay women, and wishes to perpetuate the stereotype that gay women can’t be glamorous! I can only imagine that it is because she is concerned of the effect it may have on her popularity (and purse) if she was to too closely align herself.

    So yes, good for you for using your popularity to raise awareness about the inequalities that gay people continue to suffer, and for not being afraid to enter very publically into a dialogue.

  11. thank for that. I would say that I have felt myself horribly mis-quoted in interviews, things said in jest written up as serious etc, so it’s always possible that the un-named woman was joking, or didn’t quite speak in the same way she was written up. (writes Pollyanna on Holy Thursday …!)

  12. Well yes, I totally agree that she may have been misquoted, but she has talked in the press about her concerns that people would have a negative reaction to her civil partnership, so I don’t get the impression that she is overly keen to be linked to gay people.

    It is complicated, because you could argue that high profile people in same-sex partnerships who acknowledge it, but don’t really like to talk about it, are actually useful. They are useful because they do reinforce the notion that you do not have to be defined by your sexuality, and that you can be successful and gay and it doesn’t need to be an issue. (though of course, it is still an issue for so many people).

    I am not necessarily criticising this woman. You could also argue, why should she potentially sacrifice her career? Plus, she is doing lots of good in other ways so, you know, I also think ‘good on her’.

    I just think it is important to acknowledge that some gay people in the public eye are doing more than others, and that this willingness to speak out should be encouraged.

  13. yes, I always wish more people would speak out. not just the gay ones, but the gay-friendly ones too! (and, as I’ve said dozens of times, if all the straight people who’d jumped the gay fence once or twice were out about it, the world would be a very different place!)

  14. I am so glad you ignored your original mood and decided to take the time to do this particular blog, because it transcends its original purpose and is a wake-up call for all of those who sit on the fence. Your words are powerful, far mightier than any sword or big stick and I have borrowed one paragraph to send to a young man who wonders why his friends are so outspoken about a particular group of fascists. Inhumanity is taught and the best way to defeat it is to teach humanity, to fight any injustice whenever and wherever inhumanity raises its ugly head. True love has no colour and no gender.

  15. thank you very much for saying so.

  16. You’re welcome. More please…

  17. I love this campaign, I first noticed it a few years ago – made my heart swell with pride for its non-softly, softly message. Still have my sticker saved from it on one of my journals.Seeing the poster on a Train station outside of London made me feel hopeful. It is an vital, visible message seen in public places – thank you Stella for articulating why it is still very valid & necessary for the dialogue to continue for today, when even the word ‘Gay’ is commonly used as an insult (WTF??!!!). With the spirit of change in my heart, I feel I must quote Bob Dylan:

    Come writers and critics
    Who prophesize with your pen
    And keep your eyes wide
    The chance won’t come again
    And don’t speak too soon
    For the wheel’s still in spin
    And there’s no tellin’ who
    That it’s namin’
    For the loser now
    Will be later to win
    For the times they are a-changin’.

  18. I remember hearing that song for the first time when I was 14 and thinking it was the most incredible thing. thank you.


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