Discussing software, the web, politics, sexuality and the unending supply of human stupidity.


Please stop wishing hypothetical LGBT children on homophobes as "punishment"

I’m writing this because I’ve seen this shit far too often from people who ought to know better.

It would be really nice if “straight allies”, whether self-identifying or not, could stop with this nasty little trope of wishing gay children on homophobes. It has become a common enough joke: some self-righteous preacher or politician makes some cruel homophobic remark, or works to enact a piece of legislation that will disempower lesbian, gay, bi, trans or queer people in some way, and then a sassy commenter will joke about how it would be a hilarious bit of fate if one of said homophobe’s children to end up being L, G, B or T themselves. A gay son, a lesbian daughter: those would be be fitting punishment for such a ghastly person!

Yeah, hilarious.

Except it isn’t so hilarious when you actually think about it. If you asked the person making this joke whether they consider having a child who grows up to be LGBT to be worse than that child growing up to be heterosexual (and cisgender), they’d tell you that they value the two equally, even though their words could cause one to dispute this claim. Why is having a queer child such a punishment? Is their LGBTness some kind of moral stain that marks the child out?

No, no, no, they say, it’s not me who thinks it’s bad. But the homophobic person, they would think it is bad!

Perhaps what they are hoping is that the sudden plot development of the Rick Santorums or Maggie Gallaghers of the world finding out that one of their offspring is themselves LGBT is going to cause them to rethink their position, much as it did for Republican politicians like Rob Portman and Dick Cheney. Sure, that would be a nice result, but what seems to get forgotten is the kids themselves, the unconsenting means to the desired Damascene end.

The imagined gay son-of-a-homophobe imagined by irony-loving liberal commentators would be subject to an upbringing of unending terror for their entire childhood. (And, you know, kids being in an unsafe environment is something I think we can probably agree is bad.) Even the kids of lovely hippy liberals feel a whole lot of often unwarranted fear and shame about coming out, but if you grew up watching your father go on TV comparing gay people wanting to get married to advocacy of “man-on-dog” marriage? May as well make that closet door out of concrete.

The lives of gay children aren’t there to teach some moral lesson to the nasty homophobes of the world. Year after year of bullying, homophobia and fear is not a fair trade for some kind of “the universe is fucking with you” karmic justice for homophobes. And that’s presuming that it actually works: homophobes having gay kids won’t magically lead to some happy Oprah Winfrey redemption story where everyone comes out of it happy. That’s sappy daytime TV shit. Some of those homophobes aren’t going to feel shamed into not hating LGBT people because they happen to be related to one. They’ll just kick them out, disown them and treat them like shit, just as they do to all the other LGBT people they come across. There’s a reason why so many homeless teenagers are LGBT, especially in bastions of godliness like Utah.

But even if it did lead to some kind of conversion, that doesn’t justify the pain the kid will have gone through. Just consider the harm to the kid and weigh it up with the benefit of their parent not being homophobic any more: there’s a massive imbalanace of harm vs. good there, and the harm all goes to the hypothetical gay kid. All that fear and bullying and self-doubt (not to mention increased risk of self-harm and suicide) that the LGBT kid goes through by being born to parents ideologically committed to homophobia isn’t some kind of “trade” for the eventual reluctant acceptance by their parent. The hypothetical queer kid’s life story is—in this scenario—dictated by their reaction and resistance to the bigotry of their parents. Sorry, hypothetical queer kid, you don’t get a happy childhood, nor do you get your own life or ambitions, you have to exist to satisfy the desire for some poetic justice by a straight person with a rainbow flag avatar on Facebook.

The person invoking this nasty trope doesn’t care about the hypothetical queer child: they care about God, karma or Mother Nature or whoever using them as a way to get back at the homophobic baddie. The safety or best interests or wishes of the hypothetical queer child don’t matter, because said child is just an actor in a morality play. The fact that actual LGBT people would find the prospect of growing up as the gay child of some big-time homophobe to be utterly horrifying doesn’t matter, because their safety doesn’t matter. They are soldiers in the war, and if winning the war means losing some troops, well, you gotta break some eggs, right?

The gay-kid-as-comeuppance-for-homophobia trope is exceptionally sad because it casts the child into a drama not of their own making: their life doesn’t matter, their place in the grand historical psychodrama of whether or not their parent gets over their bullshit prejudices is what matters. For the whole history of representations of LGBT people, our existence has been less about defining our own stories, being the master of our own lives, telling our stories (albeit often through a queer lens), but has been about being the side plots, the amusing stereotypical fairy who does the straight protagonist’s hair and nails perfectly, the oddball who provides comic relief, the Village People cartoon rather than the complex and nuanced people that heterosexuals get to be in films and TV.

We’re either oversexed to the point of derangement or rendered in ascetic celibacy so as to not offend. We’re the people who get interrupted when the bumbling straight dude wanders into our bars where we gobble him up like a piranha, or the sassy queen able to dispatch flawless fashion advice to his rich straight girlfriends—we’re there to civilise straight people, whether by forcing them to confront their own prejudices or by fixing them up with an amazing manicure. We’re not there to actually be ourselves or to have struggles or romances or lives of our own, just to serve as a plot device in the service of the straight protagonist. Existing solely to serve as divine punishment for wrongdoing is an example of this.

Thanks to this morality tale trope, we get to serve a new and exciting role as clumsy moral example by being legally tortured by our parents for years in order to finally shame them them into reluctantly admitting that we are human beings. Yeah, that sounds like a life I’d actually want.

The hypothetical queer kids are not actual people in this story, they are a curse. When you use this trope, you kind of imply that we’re a curse too.

Gay marriage: strengthening straight marriage?

One of the frequently heard refrains from the opponents of same-sex marriage is that it will weaken the institution of (straight) marriage. Opposite sex couples are going to look at marriage and conclude “bloody queers have destroyed it, count me out”.

This has always been a pretty absurd suggestion: why would whether gay and lesbian couples being able to get married change the attitudes of a straight couple seeking to get married?

Based on some informal surveys of friends, it might. But not in the way the opponents of same-sex marriage believe.

I have now had a number of conversations with friends who have said that they delayed getting married until same-sex marriage was legal. They didn’t feel comfortable getting married in an institution that was segregated and they felt it might be rather insulting to invite their LGBT friends to celebrate their marriage when they are not afforded the same access.

Removing the discrimination against gays and lesbians may actually help the institution of marriage: detoxifying it of its heterosexism and thus making it acceptable to those who are rightly concerned about the well-being and equality of their LGBT friends, families and colleagues.

This article is immensely sad: My boyfriend killed himself because his family couldn’t accept that he was gay.

Politico reckon the SCOTUS same-sex marriage case is a foregone conclusion. Interesting.

Pope Francis has endorsed a rather ghastly anti-gay campaign in Slovakia. His face now fills billboards asking people to vote to an amendment banning same-sex marriage, adoption by same-sex couples and mandatory sex education.

Which is perfectly understandable: he heads a church that is institutionally anti-gay and he has repeatedly acted in opposition to gay rights. Despite all the many predictably craptastic things that Pope Francis has actually done, people will still continue to believe he is a breath of fresh air, a reformer, someone who was going to finally welcome the LGBT community into the church. The huge gap between the reality of the Pope’s actions and the wishful thinking of those who are enamoured with him is spectacular. Cognitive dissonance is a scarily powerful force.

The Guardian has an excellent collection of stories of homophobia. Just the normal, day-to-day harassment and discrimination that people face on the street, in work, on public transport and in housing. The scary thing is that every out gay man I know in London that I have asked has been able to give numerous stories of street harassment. (And I have my own set. Everyone does.) Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

I think I may be in love with Panti Bliss for this TEDx talk. Panti says what every openly gay person is forced to think, every single day.

Key quotes I loved:

  • “We try to be normal and carefree, just like everybody else. But we’re not. We’re constantly scanning the pavement ahead, just in case. If we see a group of blokes coming towards us, maybe we decide silently to continue holding hands, defiantly. But now, our small intimate gesture between two people in love is no longer a small intimate gesture—it is a political act of defiance. And it has been ruined.”
  • Homophobia is the “background of our lives”.
  • “I’m fed up of putting up.”
  • “They are afraid of what the world will look like when it treats gay and lesbian and bisexual people with the same respect as everybody else. They are afraid that they won’t fit in this brave new world of equality.”

The best thing about the otherwise pretty horrible Humanum conference: the mainstream media are reporting what should have been fucking obvious—namely, that the Pope isn’t the radical they sold him to be. Told you so.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni calls on church leaders to support the government in its fight against homosexuality.

Further proof that until the scourge of religion is defeated, LGBT people shall never truly be free—and any freedom they do have can never be secure. And, yes, that’s the same Museveni that recently met and was blessed by the Pope.

Elton John seems to think that Pope Francis is Tinker Bell too. The Church was on the edge of saying that we had “gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community”. Then they decided that we didn’t.1

Pope Francis is an amazing PR spin machine (in fact, the Vatican has external PR consultants), but his actions are so discordant with the progressive mood music. It is quite sad that Elton John can’t see through the spin and see that Francis doesn’t represent meaningful progressive change at all.

  1. Because fuck Michelangelo and his fucking Sistine Chapel—and fuck John Henry Newman too. Neither of those two men gave any “gifts” to the ungrateful Church.

Good on Tim Cook for coming out publicly.

People who have never had to come out or face homophobic bigotry and harassment will at this point be saying “why is this even necessary?” because they are too blithely unaware of history to know why it is necessary. For a whole lot of young gay people interested in technology and wanting to work in the tech industry (etc.), this is something that will help. I don’t just think this, I know this from direct experience.

With allies like this...

I read someone who identifies as a “straight ally” the other day say something very similar to the following:

The reason gay men are promiscuous is as a result of homophobia and oppression. When societal homophobia decreases, gay men will be less promiscuous and more responsible.

Let me put this in a way that you might understand.


How about understanding the radical idea that sex is actually quite good fun and people can enjoy whatever type and frequency of sex they want without goddamn “allies” saying that it’s all due to us all being such pathetic wimpy little poofs that we can’t make informed decisions about sex and relationships for ourselves?

How about not peddling your puritanical sexual morality as a sincere attempt at opposing discrimination and bigotry? How about not projecting your bullshit sexphobia on people who aren’t similarly afflicted?

Do you like the fact that you have basically adopted the sexual morality of the Pope and Pat Robertson while at the same talking on behalf of a movement for sexuality-based freedom and liberation? Does that cause you as much intellectual or political discomfort as it does to me? Are we supposed to be grateful for your bullshit concern when you are feeding into the same rhetorical power dynamic of the people who so vehemently oppose the right to have informed, consensual, shame-free sexuality?

Do you buy into nonsense like “sex addiction” too?

Does it concern you that the same shitbags who hate LGBT people1 also hate straight people’s sexuality—especially female sexuality, hence the consistent attempts by theocratic fuckwits to obliterate access to birth control and contraception and impose ridiculous fundamentalist nonsense on them too? And that maybe the answer to that is to embrace and defend the positive and life-affirming value of sex and sexuality—gay, straight, vanilla, kinky, monogamous or not, lifelong or fleeting—rather than make it into a pathology?

If you want to defend and help sexual minorities, defend our right to enjoy the sex we want and desire (so long as it is consensual and safe etc., obviously) or you aren’t actually helping and you certainly aren’t being an “ally”.

  1. Oh, wait, no, they hate our sin. They love us. And if you believe that horseshit, I’ll happily sell you the Brooklyn Bridge.

Denying Elliott Rodger was a misogynist makes you as dumb as a creationist

I’ve managed to mostly hold my tongue in the last week regarding the murder spree conducted by Elliott Rodger in California. But I need to say something now.

I read Rodger’s manifesto last weekend. It makes very interesting reading, although it’s pretty terrible writing. The public debate about Rodger’s views and motivations has played out exactly as stupidly as I expected it to.

First up, there’s the gun fanatics. Every time there’s a killing spree or some prick goes and shoots up a school, they always try and find a way to say that easy access to guns really is no big deal. Their immediate reaction is to blame it on mental health and be done with it. Ignoring, of course, that it might not be a half bad idea if the US could actually make it so people with serious mental illnesses don’t get the right to own guns. Here in Britain, a family friend’s ex-husband started having serious mental health issues. Within a few days of his doctor diagnosing said problems, his shotgun licence was revoked and the police turned up at his house to take away his gun. Because that’s a sensible thing to do.

The gun-lovers can blame mental illness all they like, but their solution to people with serious mental illnesses having guns is… well, they don’t have a solution. Just lots of stupid fucking slogans like “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” (except like computers or photocopiers or cars, a gun makes the process ruthlessly efficient).

Then there’s another group of idiots: people who reckon that the best explanation for the crime is that, well, Elliott Rodger was a closeted gay man. Some idiot on Fox News gave that startling theory the other day. The evidence in the ‘for’ column seems to be: on YouTube, he is depicted listening to Whitney Houston and George Michael; he uses the word “fabulous” a few times; he is a bit swishy and effeminate in his mannerisms; and he buys expensive designer clothes. I mean, that seals the deal, obviously. He’s one of us. Send him the free toaster and the membership card for Club Queer.

I mean, it’s a great theory if you ignore the fact that his manifesto goes on at length about how he’s desperate for women to have sex with him, that he refers to getting instant erections when seeing hot blondes, that in his version of utopia, women would be disappeared from society, with a few left in chains to reproduce, and the men would be happy because there’d be no women and thus no sex to distract them from, I dunno, playing video games and watching sports.

I mean, it’s a notable thing about being gay: you are really mortified about rejection by women. Like, if you hear that a woman isn’t interested in sleeping with you, that’s terrible and ghastly and haunts you for all of about twenty seconds. It’s as mortifying as a vegetarian finding out that he won’t be getting steak for dinner. I read Rodger’s manifesto and while I can certainly empathise with the loneliness he expresses, it’s just really bloody lazy to equate any feeling of ‘outsiderness’ from sexuality with being gay. Back when I was 18 or 19, I would never have written that I’d seen a hot blonde chick at a shopping mall and I got an instant erection. Because, duh, not a dude. The “he was really gay” theory works great if you ignore the fairly fundamental fact that being gay actually includes being attracted to members of the same rather than the opposite sex.

The final and most significant part of the stupidity around Rodger is this: the complete denial that his actions stem from misogyny. The last week has been a cascade of idiots trying to find ways to avoid saying the bloody obvious: Elliott Rodger hated women, he wanted to destroy women, to get vengeance against women for the harm he believed women had collectively done to him by rejecting him as a sexual partner.

If he had published a manifesto saying that he wanted to kill all black people or all gay people or all Jews, we would have taken him at his word. But he publishes a manifesto calling for the destruction of all women and we collectively hem and haw and find ways to avoid coming to the obvious conclusion: that he was a radical misogynist. His rhetoric is one of complete elimination. That he failed to go through with it, and in fact ended up killing more men than he did women doesn’t change the intention. (Incidentally, David Copeland, the neo-Nazi thug who set off bombs in Brixton, Brick Lane and Soho—targetting London’s black, Asian and LGBT communities respectively—only ended up killing people in the last of his attacks. Thankfully, he didn’t do nearly as much damage and destruction as he possibly could have done. Does that mean that his motivation to start a ‘race war’ by targetting minority groups wasn’t actually his motivation?)

Elliott Rodger was motivated by extreme, violent misogyny. No, that doesn’t make every man a conspirator any more than the KKK being motivated by race makes every white person responsible for their thuggery. There are communities of people where the kind of extreme misogyny that motivated Rodger is bred and spread: Rodger spent a lot of time posting on online fora associated with the seduction community—pickup artists and ‘The Game’. These are real communities of people who spend an enormous amount of time online hating women. I’ve read more posts from such forums than I care to think about. They have blogs, they have forums, they have chatrooms, they have a community, a lingo, a set of shared myths and narratives. It’s right there, you just need to hit up your favourite search engine and take a look.

Denying that misogyny is an actual thing, finding dumb moral equivalences betwen the extreme misogyny of large swathes of the so-called “manosphere” with some long-dead feminist writer who once frustratedly said ‘kill all men’ or somesuch tripe—this is all keeping one’s head in the sand. There are men who actually do hate all women, who want to kill or subjugate all women. Denying this fact in the light of Elliott Rodger’s murders puts you in the same box as creationists or anti-vaxxers or anybody else who is unwilling to see the clear and present reality right in front of them.

That reality is really fucking depressing. Reality often is. Denying that reality won’t make it go away.