Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/599/8304
Daily Mail homophobia
Jan Moir, a Daily Mail journalist, has provoked outrage with a blatantly homophobic column attacking the recently deceased Boyzone singer, Stephen Gately.
Conor Payne, Socialist Party Ireland
Originally titled: "Why there was nothing 'natural' about Stephen Gately's death", Moir flat out denies the medical evidence that Gately died of natural causes, instead linking his death to his "lifestyle" and calling the circumstances around it "more than a little sleazy".
Moir speculates about Gately and his partner's sex life and outrageously claims that: "Another real sadness about Gately's death is that it strikes another blow to the happy-ever-after myth of civil partnerships."
There has been a widespread reaction against this nasty and bigoted article. The Press Complaints Commission received a record 22,000 complaints in a matter of days and almost 30,000 joined a Facebook group condemning the article.
The fact that the death of Stephen Gately should be used as an opportunity to launch such a vile attack on gay people in this way shows that, unfortunately, homophobia is still a real issue in our society. It is a reflection of the real homophobic attitudes that exist and affect the lives of countless lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.
Moir's article is not an isolated aberration. Profit-driven tabloids routinely engage in puritanical speculation about the sex lives of celebrities and trade in homophobia, sexism and racism to sell papers and push their right-wing politics. Such articles have consequences. They feed a reservoir of reactionary prejudice which has manifested itself in an increase in homophobic attacks in London and elsewhere.
A rise in violence against LGBT people has been talked of anecdotally for the last few months. There have been four suspected homophobic murders in London in the past year, including the death of Ian Baynham after being attacked in Trafalgar Square on 25 September. The idea that the west end of London is free of homophobia because there are some gay bars is tragically mistaken.
These suspicions of many LGBT people were confirmed when Metropolitan Police figures published last week showed an 18.3% rise in recorded homophobic crime. Due to LGBT people not having the confidence to report attacks and abuse to the police, the figures undoubtedly represent only a fraction of the homophobic crime which actually takes place. Homophobic violence and bullying in schools remains common.
The legal reforms of the past few years, while welcome, have not abolished homophobia or led to a golden age of LGBT confidence and liberation just as previous laws have not abolished racism and sexism.
In a recession, with cuts and job losses increasing insecurity, the lowest prejudices existing in society can come to the fore with minority groups being singled out as scapegoats for the failures of capitalism.
It is very positive that many ordinary people are unwilling to tolerate the vile opinions expressed in the Daily Mail article. The justified anger over Moir's article should also be directed to fighting homophobia generally and for a society based on solidarity not prejudice and division.
In The Socialist 28 October 2009:
Youth fight for jobs
Socialist Party news and analysis
Workplace news and analysis
Socialist Party feature
Marxist analysis: history
Socialist Party reviews