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.

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

#everydayhomophobia: someone shouted “why are you holding hands?” at me and my boyfriend while walking in London yesterday. Said idiot was completely inarticulate so it took a moment or two for us to understand what he was saying. 2/10, must try harder.

People say homophobia is a thing of the past in the UK. People are wrong.

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.”

Professional moron and banana enthusiast Kirk Cameron has gone full Westboro:

God hates gay people. God hates fags, and you’re going to hell.

What it lacks in ‘love thy neighbour’ it makes up in honesty I guess. The whole “love the sinner hate the sin” thing has always been such disingenuous bollocks.

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.

Guess who is coming along to an interfaith conference on the “complementarity of man and woman in marriage” organised by the Pope? Tony Perkins from the virulently anti-gay Family Research Council.

So much for the bullshit myth that Pope Francis really, really loves gay people. “Who am I to judge?” he said. Well, he doesn’t need to judge. He can outsource that to Perkins, who has said that the It Gets Better project—an anti-bullying project!—is a “concerted effort to persuade kids that homosexuality is okay and actually to recruit them into that lifestyle”, advocates ineffective gay-to-straight conversion therapy, compares loving same-sex relationships to drug addiction, blames paedophilia exclusively on gay people, and argues that man-on-horse marriage is the logical outcome of same-sex marriage. (No, really.)

The fact that Pope Francis will be making Tony Perkins welcome at his event will in no way prevent idiots from believing that the Pope is some kind of agent of drastic change for the Catholic 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.

A skeptical campaigner has been threatened by self-proclaimed psychic Sally Morgan’s husband. A volley of threats of murder, lawsuits and a nice big dose of homophobia too. That seems an appropriate response to someone handing out a leaflet.

On Sally Morgan’s Facebook, there’s fawning comments about how he was “only doing what a loving husband would do”. Shouting homophobic abuse and threatening to have some killed: that’s true love right there.

I just experienced a scene of casual homophobia… in a lift in a hotel in Brighton. It’s too profoundly odd to even begin to describe. I’m not hurt or offended, just very, very confused.

Just a small hint: if you are going to tell homophobic jokes, you are unlikely to find an appreciative audience in Brighton—Britain’s “gay capital”, just as you are unlikely to find an appreciative audience for your sexist jokes at a dinner party with Germaine Greer.

Absolutely surreal.

Homophobia at the happiest place on earth

Names removed for anonymity.

At Disney’s Hollywood Studios today, we were at the car park entrance. Two male friends in the front seat, one wearing a “just engaged” badge, with his girlfriend in the back of the car.

Disney cast members usually wish people with these badges (or the “happily ever after” badges) congratulations on their engagement or marriage.

The lady at the car park entry gave the two guys a puzzled look and said something like “you two are engaged?” The guy wearing the badge said “oh, no” and pointed back to his girlfriend.

The cast member then said something like “oh, I was going to say. That’s a relief” and then made a cross–as if exorcising a demon—with her fingers as if she was demonstrating what she would be doing if they actually were engaged.

I complained on site but felt that the small everyday aggressions ought to be documented so companies can be held accountable for fighting discrimination.

I have a tough skin about stupid crap like this but I can remember exactly what daily pummellings of this kind of nonsense does on a younger person afraid and in the closet. For a company like Disney that prides itself on courtesy towards their guests, this kind of thing just beggars belief.

There have been a few amusing slip-ups where cast members assumed same-sex members of our party were engaged or married but this was the only time that mistaken assumption came with a side-serving of visible disgust from a Disney cast member. Most of the cast members have been wonderful and courteous but jaw-droppingly stupid shit like this made a day at Disney slightly less magical.

Update (2014-02-17): I heard back by phone today from a man at Walt Disney World Guest Services apologising. They told me they take complaints of this sort very seriously and that senior management will be informed. They informed me that they could not tell me the outcome of any staff discipline process for the Cast Member concerned. Most importantly they said “sorry”.

Free!: the anime causing straight male geeks to explode in utter hypocrisy

It’s been a while since I watched anime with any regularity. I used to watch some of the more fantastical and other worldly old animes, but haven’t been watching anime much recently.

This week, I saw something rather entertaining in the anime world. Let me tell you about it.

This is Free! - Iwatobi Swim Club, an anime produced by Kyoto Animation that started in July. It is about four teenage boys—Haruka, Makoto, Nagisa and Rin—who participated in competitive swimming when they were at elementary school. They meet a few years later in high school and then three of them start up a swimming club.

So far eight episodes have been broadcast, and there are plans to put out DVDs and Blu-Rays.

As you can see above, the characters are rather handsome if drawings of men with stereotypically anime-ish hair combined with lean, muscular physiques are your sort of thing. And, I’m told, it’s got a fair amount of fanservice—vaguely erotic or indeed homoerotic content to satisfy the fans.

Guy fanservice? Because the fans are girls mostly. Oh my. Girls. Watching anime. Whatever next?

That’s pretty much a mild version of the broad reaction from hardcore anime fans. Young men, looking attractive: OMG GAY, OMG GIRLZ!

The reaction has been hysterical. Mad about Free!—with the excellent URL—has documented the reactions of male anime fans who are posting long rambling rants littered with homophobia and sexism about how offended they are by the mere existence of an anime that very mildly eroticises young men by, well, showing them engaging in competitive swimming.

I mean, it is a major fucking liberty that Kyoto Animation are taking by sexually objectifying young men. It’s not like anime would sexually objectify young women.

Oh wait.

(Also, the girls in the second picture? Their heads are bigger than their bodies, like some kind of freakshow Ralph Lauren model.)

The complaint from the otaku dudebros complaining about ‘Free!’ is… that it is invading their precious dude-only space. Anime isn’t for girls (or queers). I mean, the whole world is persecuting heterosexual men: stealing their sperm, accusing them of rape illegitimately, not to mention all those nasty cruel harridans friendzoning them while taking the piss out of their fedoras. Next we’ll all be forcing them to be gay by putting flouride in the drinking water or something.

The amazing thing when you start reading the ‘Free!’ threads is the participants in the threads are the same angry straight dudes keep coming back bitching about the gays and the fujoshi—”rotten women”, the term used for women who enjoy the thought and depiction of cute guys getting it on with one another. (Of course, there’s no “rotten men” terminology for the dudes who love girl-on-girl, because hypocrisy.) They keep coming back to repeatedly reassert that ‘Free!’ is not for them and berate Kyoto Animation for taking up valuable space in the world of anime with stuff that doesn’t satisfy their sexual cravings. Of course, all the guys watching creepy moe anime are watching it for the intriguing plots and well-developed characters.

Incidentally, I watched the first episode of ‘Free!’ just to see what all the fuss is about. Meh. It’s alright. I can see why people would want to see fanservice, but unless you actually care about high school swimming, I can’t really see the attraction. It might get better, but it’s not really my thing. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is, but it just doesn’t really fit what I enjoy in a show, in spite of the (apparently controversial) hot muscled swimmer dudes.

Unlike the very angry dudes, I’ll just… not watch any more episodes. But I’ll keep reading the angry responses from otaku, because that is some funny, funny shit.

I hope this picture of Tom Daley is annoying a man in a fedora somewhere.

Barry Cryer reckons ‘Vicious’ is homophobic. I wouldn’t go that far. The problem with ‘Vicious’ isn’t that it’s homophobic, it’s just that it’s a bit crap.

Which, given the considerable talents of Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi, is rather sad and disappointing.

Today is the International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia.

It’s today because back in 1990, the World Health Organization decided that being gay wasn’t a disease. Which is nice. It’s sure nice to not be considered disordered by the medical establishment just because you like dudes.

Anyway, you know, be awesome to one another.

UKIP comedy hour: BNP members booted out, antisemitism on Facebook and the truly bizarre suggestion that physical exercise prevents you from being gay.

Ned Simons at the Huffington Post reckons the homophobic reaction of Tory MPs is “retoxifying” the Conservative Party.

Looks like UKIP and Farage want to make political hay out of homophobia. And here I was, naïvely thinking they were primarily about leaving the European Union. Silly me.