Monday, 19 May 2014

John Lyndon Sullivan, homophobic violence and why voting UKIP is a poor 'protest'

I was going to write about this last week, when it was revealed, but I was so angry everything I put down on paper became INCOHERENT WITH RAGE. So I’ll try again now that the sunshine has calmed me down somewhat. 

(Hmm, reading it back it’s pretty rage-y.)

On Friday I came across a quote from UKIP politician, John Lyndon Sullivan, saying:

I rather often wonder if we shot one ‘poofter’ (GLBT whatevers), whether the next 99 would decide on balance, that they weren’t after-all? We might then conclude that it’s not a matter of genetics, but rather more a matter of education.”

The quote ends with a smiley face. Because shooting gay people is all the LOLZ AMIRITE??!!

Confusing punctuation and clear lack of research on the ‘gay gene’ debate aside, I am sure you can understand why this quote made me incandescent on Friday. 

My childhood meant I grew up with an understanding of homophobia and what hatred of gay people looked like in the lives of women and men. But I think the first time I really felt the true, intense fear of homophobia was after the nail bombing in Soho. I was 14 years old at the time, and identified as bi. As the news reported that a former BNP member had bombed a popular gay pub on Old Compton Street, I had a chilling feeling of realisation. I learnt that day how some people wanted to kill women like me. They wanted to kill people like my mum, and my family friends and family members. 

Two people were killed in that bomb attack. Two people were murdered by a homophobe who hoped that by threatening and destroying the lives of gay people, he would make them all disappear. Which is kind of what John Lyndon Sullivan is demanding, isn’t it? What would happen if we shoot one, he ‘jokes’. Then 99 more might decide on balance they don’t have to be gay. In his comment, he implies that through threat, they’ll ‘choose’ to be straight. Never mind that sexuality isn’t a choice. Never mind that no one asks why heterosexual people ‘choose’ to be straight. 

In recent years, we’ve been hearing more and more of the term ‘corrective rape’. This is when men rape a gay, lesbian or bi woman to ‘turn’ her straight. Put plainly, to ‘correct’ her sexuality. We have mainly heard the phrase ‘corrective rape’ in relation to South Africa, but just to be very clear, this violence isn’t confined to one country or to recent times.  

Corrective rape is the use of violence to try and erase gay women, to try stop women from being gay. In this, the term and the crime share a root with Lyndon Sullivan’s comment. Corrective rape is the brutal acting out of a belief that using violence against LGBTQ people will force them to renounce their sexuality or gender identity. 

A few years ago, I volunteered to co-run a campaign to stop the deportation of a young Ugandan asylum seeker, B. She is gay, and had been outed in the Ugandan press (even if she wasn’t gay, the fact that she had been outed in the media would be enough to put her in serious danger, but try telling that to the bloody Home Office). The young woman had been horrifically beaten and attacked by a group of Ugandan men – again in an attempt to ‘correct’ her sexuality. 

For as long as I live, I will never forget reading the internal report by the UKBA on her injuries, or the photographs of what had been done to her. Even just thinking about it makes me want to break down and cry. That anyone could commit such acts of terror on another human being because they hated her sexuality makes me feel sick to my stomach. 

Once again, the root of the attack on B is found in Lyndon Sullivan’s comment. When the gang of men beat B, they were acting out that ‘wondering’. They were putting into reality the conviction that all it takes is fear, intimidation and violence to ‘educate’ an LGBQ person out of their sexuality.  

The awful violence committed against this young woman happened not long after the murder of gay Ugandan activist David Kato. He was killed with a hammer. His life was violently taken away from him by people driven by hate, who hoped their hate would erase gay people. 

My point with all these examples is that Lyndon Sullivan doesn’t have to ‘wonder’ about the impact of shooting one gay person. Every day, LGBTQ people are being killed, beaten and raped simply for existing. He doesn’t need to ‘wonder’ about it, he can just open a newspaper. The murder of LGBTQ people is not the ‘joke’ of a UKIP politician. It’s the reality faced by millions of people in every country in the world. 

I cannot understand how anyone could say something that is not only hugely ignorant about the reality of violent homophobia, but that is basically cruel. How can someone sit there, and type a message imagining the murder of one person, in order to teach a wider group of people a lesson? How can he do that? How could he speak those words out loud? 

Since the Soho bombs, there have been real gains made for LGBTQ rights in the UK. Section 28 was repealed when I was in the sixth form. Around the same time came changes to the law allowing gay people could adopt. Before that, we saw the equalisation of the age of consent between men. Homosexuality became legal in the military. By the time I started university, civil partnerships were beginning to happen. This year the first marriages between same sex couples took place. In fact, at a (straight) friend’s wedding last weekend, I nearly shed a tear when the registrar announced that the UK law said marriage was a legal commitment between ‘two people’ as opposed to ‘between a man and a woman’.  

The vast, vast majority of the British public have welcomed these reforms. Men like John Lyndon Sullivan really are out of step with popular feeling on this issue, as are Farage and Roger Helmer. 

But some people, like the aforementioned UKIP-ers, have felt “threatened” by progress on LGBTQ rights. As a result, they have come out with reactionary and violent statements in their political efforts to roll back equality. 

Let’s be clear. No one is threatening the existence of homophobes. No one is beating or raping homophobes to 'correct' their views. One in six UK homophobes aren’t reporting hate crime. No one is even threatening their opportunity to air their toxic views – after all, UKIP seems to have had ample opportunities to freely express their nasty BS on the mainstream media. It isn’t UKIP-ers and the like who are threatened. No, it is LGBTQ people who are being beaten, raped and murdered simply for existing, and freely expressing their sexuality or gender identity. 

One wonders what it is going to take for people to decide that a ‘protest vote’ for UKIP on Thursday is a bad idea. How far will they have to go before everyone puts the ballot paper down and say, ‘hang on… Do I want to vote in protest for a party where men call women “sluts” and talk about “bongo bongo land”? Do I want to vote for a party where the leader talks about how he doesn’t want Romanians next door because immigration should be about “quality not quantity”? Do I want to vote for a party where a member says getting into bed with your boyfriend puts “reasonable expectations” in his mind, so if you get raped it’s your fault? The same man who says older people find homosexuality “viscerally repugnant”? Do I want to vote for a party where a member says he wonders if shooting one “poofter” would lead to 99 more changing their mind? Do I want to vote for a party with a councillor who calls the police because someone dared to tweet a list of UKIP policies?’ (they’re your policies FFS!)

John Lyndon Sullivan, across the world LGBTQ people are being raped, beaten and yes, shot, because of their sexuality. You should be ashamed of yourself for your nasty, violent, homophobic comments. You, your party, and your party’s supporters should be ashamed.   

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