Identity politics raises so many questions, we need a safe public space to talk about what they will do to our society and culture.
My regular readers will understand that I have been giving some thought recently to what it means when people make accusations of homophobia to silence the debate.
Further reading takes you into the world of mental illnesses. Phobias are the most common form of mental illness in the West. The psychiatrists explain one can add the suffix ‘’phobe’ onto to almost any noun to describe an aspect of mental illness. Going back to basics, it’s all about irrational fears that for complex and usually unconscious reasons, make you feel ill and impair your mental and physical well-being.
The lists of the phobias that people might suffer from are long, and usually Greek. Just casting a glance the heading ‘A’ and we find descriptions of people who suffer a variety of debilitating reactions. Acrophobes can’t cope with heights; amexophobes can’t bear to ride in cars; anthrophobes are made ill by flowers; asphenphosmphobes can’t be touched; arithmophobes panic when they encounter numbers. Typical symptoms of phobias can include nausea, trembling, rapid heartbeat, feelings of unreality, and being preoccupied with the fear object.
So what or who are homophobes? I suppose there might be some people who suffer nausea or rapid heartbeat when meeting a homosexual (leaving aside the question that without ‘gaydar’ how would they know), but I suspect that there are very few. Because at this point we have moved in our public discussion from illness to insult.
The movement from illness to insult follows the shift frompsychiatry to politics, Why politics? Because ‘Identity Politics’ which defines people according to membership of a group, and usually one defined by sexual attraction, has become the new platform for the stormtroopers who are driving the culture wars we are struggling with. The language of mental illness has been hijacked to be used as a political weapon to accuse someone of being ethically ill, or socially septic. And why? To close down any conversation the about the issues and implications? Yet the changes this culture war has brought about are immense.
One problem with identity politics is that the proponents want it both ways. They want to reshape the way society engages with sexual preferences, (including redefining marriage so that it no longer has making and cherishing children at its centre) but they don’t want any critique of its ambitions or values.
Like so many progressive movements from the French to the Russian revolution it isn’t long before the progressives begin to consume their own, let alone anyone else who raises questions.
You could not, for example, be less homophobic than Martina Navratilova. But because she has questioned transgenderwomen competing with and beating biological women in sport, the stormtroopers of Identity Politics have set out to ‘phobe’ her too. Since she obviously can’t be homophobic, they shame and silence her as a transphobe.
It might be a bit easier to discuss these complex issues if there were agreed facts to base our positions on. Listening to a debate the other day on whether or not anyone had any choice in their sexual identity, the it seemed whole audience appeared unassailably convinced you were born gay. But there are other views within the gay community. One of the leading gay activists Peter Tatchell insists this can’t be the case. Not only is there absolutely no scientific evidence to that effect, but he thinks there are complex causes. “Social expectations, cultural values and peer pressure, for instance, help push many of us…” he wrote.
And of course people change during their life. It’s just that the activists will only allow for change in one direction and not the other.
“If we are all born either gay or straight, how do they explain people who switch in mid-life from fulfilled heterosexuality to fulfilled homosexuality (and vice versa)? The singer Tom Robinson was a happy, well-adjusted gay man who, to his own surprise, one day met and fell in love with a woman. He is now equally happy and well-adjusted in his straight relationship. If he was hard-wired at birth to desire men, how can he now desire women?”
But Peter Tatchell himself is problematic. The progressives become almost hysterical with anger if you ask if there is any link between the gay culture and paedophilia. If there was such a link, it would matter greatly with the new LGBTQ+ sex education programme directed to Primary School children which has caused such a stir.
So what do we make of Peter Tatchell suggesting just such a link?
“The positive nature of some child-adult sexual relationships is not confined to non-Western cultures. Several of my friends – gay and straight, male and female – had sex with adults from the ages of nine to 13. None feel they were abused. All say it was their conscious choice and gave them great joy.”
He may not be actually advocating paedophilia, but it sounds like he is normalising it.
On a wider canvass many of us would like to go on asking questions about the implications of a movement that reduces the core identity of human beings to their sexuality.
Are there no more important categories?
Kind/unkind; Judgemental/compassionate; generous/selfish; Left/Right; clever/simple; stoic/epicurean; musical/practical?
When you look at or meet someone, is the most important thing about their humanity really whom they fancy?
It’s not homophobic to ask such questions. But it may be controlling, totalitarian and narrow minded to use the slur of homophobiato close down the search for a better understanding.