UK: The Queen defending gay rights? She can't even say the words out loud
Reposted from The Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/mar/11/queen-gay-rights-commonwealth?INTCMP=SRCH
Gay people of the Commonwealth deserve more than an inference; they need its head to speak of them and to them
Queen fights for gay rights, declared the Mail on Sunday's front page yesterday – a headline so jarring and implausible as to provoke a number of grave questions for middle England. Chiefly: whatever next? Queen stands as Labour councillor? Queen does the Harlem Shake?
My heart quickened somewhat, enlivened by the prospect of a glorious future for human rights. We extremists, who believe gay people should not be tortured or persecuted, shall be granted a new comrade: the supreme governor of the Church of England, the head of the Commonwealth, the Queen of more than a dozen countries. And then I read the detail.
Her "historic pledge to promote gay rights" as the paper put it (or "historic step forward" as Stonewall's Ben Summerskill had it), will comprise her signing a new Commonwealth charter, which states:
"We are implacably opposed to all forms of discrimination, whether rooted in gender, race, colour, creed, political belief or other grounds."
Fighting for gay rights? The Queen won't even mention them. She dare not speak our name – that is, if you believe she is even referring to gay people; if you buy the newspaper's inference that "other grounds" denotes an "implicit support of gay rights".
Let us assume it does mean that, and that Stonewall's assumption is correct. How does keeping ma'am about a minority help? Jesus never mentioned homosexuality – has that dissuaded many of his followers that "love thy neighbour" does not in fact mean: "as long as his partner's not called Steve"?
No, to refrain from specification is to collude with silence, the Grand Pause that keeps lesbians and gay men invisible, suffocating in marriages of inconvenience or trapped in police cells. The hush of polite conversation is the rusty mattock of a millennium's oppression. By contrast, in the west, the one tool that started prising open the chamber of horrors in which LGBT people lived, was the simple self-expression of coming out, of specifying, of stating our innate being aloud.
And according to a Palace spokesman, the charter's words are not even the monarch's: "In this charter, the Queen is endorsing a decision taken by the Commonwealth… The Queen does not take a personal view on these issues. The Queen's position is apolitical."
Of course. Stating that all humans deserve rights is "political". How controversial it is that people should not be discriminated against. But how laughable would it be for an unelected head of state to preach equality anyway?
The Mail on Sunday's splash is to be applauded, given its apparent heralding of a more liberal stance for the paper, an intriguing contrast to the Daily Mail. But this charter isn't a fight for gay rights, it's a vague whisper muffled by the screams of gay people awaiting the noose.
If only the alleged intention were expressed explicitly, unequivocally. Most Commonwealth nations, injected by our colonial laws and Old Testament homophobia in the first place, need it. Desperately.
David Davies MP responded to the news of the charter with, "I fail to see why the Queen needs to make a special statement on this country's opposition to discrimination against gays and women," and in so doing, he invites some helpful pointers.
Namely: two Commonwealth countries sentence gay people to death, one tortures them with flogging, five impose life sentences and 41 of the 54 nations keep homosexuality illegal.
He would do well, too, to read some quotes from asylum seekers who fled Commonwealth nations to Britain, whom I interviewed three years ago.
"I was caught in bed with a friend and taken to the police station. They put water on the floor and electrocuted me. They electrocuted me four or five times. For a while afterwards you forget you're even human, you forget you even exist," said "Benjamin", 32, from Cameroon.
"When my community found out, one of the local men broke into my house in a mask, carrying a knife, telling me to leave the area," said "Denise", 41, from Jamaica. Later she was "correctively" raped.
This is why our opposition to discrimination needs spelling out.
But deaf to this urgency, Davies continued: "My worry is the politically correct brigade will use it [the charter] to silence legitimate debate about issues like gay marriage."
Yes! By refraining from using the word gay or gay rights, the head of the Commonwealth will in fact silence opponents of equality!
I will not celebrate silence. I will not join those cheering this supposed historic nod in our direction. Gay people of the Commonwealth deserve more than an inference; they need its head to speak of them and to them, to protect them. Until then, how are we to interpret this charter? Are we supposed to kneel?