In 2014 same-sex marriage was legalized in the UK, meaning equality for the LGBTQ community was allegedly there in the eyes of the law. Homophobia and heteronormativity however still have a firm hold and influence on society. Just like the ongoing struggle of racism, history repeats itself as mindsets regarding the LGBTQ community are much slower to change than laws.
I checked out The LGBT Foundation’s ‘Part of the Picture’ report; it claimed that 50% of pupils have actually seen homophobic bullying take place, while only a mere 9% of pupils thought that pupils/staff would feel safe whilst being openly LGBTQ in schools, and over half of LGBTQ kids actually self-harm. On top of this, outside of school, but still including pupils, LGBTQ people are actually twice as likely to have suicidal thoughts and attempts, three times as likely to suffer from depression, and one in five of them have experienced hate crime- whereas one in four of them report it. Frankly, anyone trying to claim that there’s not a problem is wrong.
Sceptics are probably wondering how kids bullying each other is the government’s fault. Good question, it’s not. But generally speaking children are a product of the society they grow up in, and this is a problem which spans demographics. In order to explain my next point I need to explain a parallel I’ve drawn between recently introduced UK laws and a quote from Lee Atwater, the man who was, at different points in history, both Ronald Reagan and George Bush’s campaign strategist. He said:
“…in 1954 [you say] n****r, n****r, n****r… By ’68 you can’t say n****r, that hurts you. It backfires. [So] You say… totally economic things, and the by-product of them is blacks get hit worse than whites.”. (Taken from, ‘13th’, dir. Ava DuVernay , 2016)
What Atwater basically means is that racist hate language, and policies, prominent in politics at the start of the 20th Century, became socially unacceptable and therefore evolved into more subtle form of discrimination. There is a parallel here between this and a change proposed to The Digital Economy Bill in November, by the UK government, which would will censor “non-conventional” pornographic sex acts.
The Guardian recently reported that a spokeswoman for MindGeek, a global IT conglomerate behind many of the internet’s biggest porn sites, commented that the ban targets “…normalised and accepted aspects of healthy sexuality, proudly celebrated by the feminists [and] queer movements…”. This includes acts depicting female dominance, female pleasure, anything ‘kink’ related, homosexual or transgender; although there has not yet been a definitive list of what will be censored.
Obviously this hits the LGBTQ community a lot harder than heterosexuals because heteronormative porn will be affected significantly less, as it is more likely to be considered ‘conventional’. The proposed change coincides by weeks with the passing of another law, The Investigatory Powers Bill – which regards the interception of our communications. You’ve probably heard about this controversial new bill in the news throughout 2016 as it requires internet providers to keep a complete record of your computer history, including that gathered whilst in ‘Incognito mode’, and make it readily available to institutions including essentially all Police- Metropolitan, City of London, Scottish, Irish, transport, MOD and military-, HM Revenue & Customs, the Department for Work and Pension, the Criminal Cases Review Commission, Police Investigations and Review Commission. On top of this, the new bill permits security services, with a warrant, to hack into mobiles and computers, and even install software on a computer which tracks every letter pressed on a keyboard.
When considering the fact that the government has outlawed something consumed by an already marginalized community, and then, right away, introduced a legal method to covertly catch, and criminalize consumers, it seems as if this could be used as an elaborate entrapment to target LGBTQ people; or at least any people who happen to be LGBTQ which the government feel need ‘monitoring’. After all, who knows what their intended punishment for this violation will be, and what implications both the monitoring and the punishments will have on people’s futures?
Conclusions such as this leave questions as to whether our current government, or any for that matter, can be trusted to not push the big red button with “abuse of power” written across it. Or maybe it’s just coincidence and we should leave them to it.