Our new campaign for Stonewall launches this week.
Stonewall are an amazing organisation, sensational campaigners and very nice folk to boot.
They’ve been fighting tirelessly for The rights of gay, lesbian and bisexual people since their foundation in 1989.
And they’ve been extremely successful: helping achieve equalisation of the age of consent, lifting the ban on lesbians and gay men serving in the military, securing legislation allowing same sex couples to adopt and the repeal of Section 28, the clause in the Local Government Act designed to prevent the so-called ‘promotion’ of homosexuality in schools. More recently they’ve championed equal partnership rights for gay people under law, recognised first with the civil partnerships bill and then, last year, with the same sex marriage legislation.
All of these hard-won battles are vitally important milestones.
But as any campaigner for racial or gender equality can confirm, there’s a big difference between securing equal rights under law and actually putting an end to prejudice and discrimination.
Sad to say, prejudice seems to be hard wired into all of us and discrimination is very hard to prevent as a consequence, even when we’re trying super hard. (If you think you have your prejudices in check and under control, go to the YourMorals.org website. Trying a few of their online tests for yourself will swiftly relieve you of your illusions.)
Unfortunately we are still very much in the foothills when it come to getting the UK to accept gay people for who they are.
Nearly a million Brits have witnessed physical homophobic bullying at work in the last five years and two and a half times that number have witnessed verbal bullying over the same period.
No wonder a quarter of all gay people still keep completely schtum about their private lives at work.
In sport it’s still practically taboo to be openly gay. That’s why people like Thomas Hitzlsperger (football) Tom Daley (diving) and Gareth Thomas (rugby) should be so roundly applauded when they have the courage to buck the trend.
And you have to ask yourself whether we have the right to be proud of the progress we’re making when we all hear children all over the country (and many others too) using the word “gay” as a pejorative catch-all term for anything a bit rubbish and we nevertheless shrug it off because we know they don’t mean any harm.
Our campaign simply pictures two individuals in the same profession next to a headline that says, “One is gay. if that bothers people, our work continues”.
It draws attention to Stonewall’s continuing mission, in the aftermath of the equal marriage landmark, to help build a society in which we can all be open and confident about who we are, and who we love.
It’s running in the press and on buses and in the tube in London.
Our campaign is an uncontroversial statement of fact, underpinned by the presumption of equality under UK law of all gay and straight people. The literal and legal equivalent of a gender rights action group picturing a male and a female executive under a headline that read, “we’ll carry on campaigning until he no longer earns 20% more than her for doing exactly the same job.”
And yet it still wasn’t easy to get our message heard.
Transport for London are currently having to defend a legal case against a Christian organisation called the Core Issues Trust. This body has been suing TfL for rejecting one of their campaigns, offering religious support to “cure” anyone who has experienced homosexual feelings but feels they may want to reduce, subdue or extinguish them. TfL had judged the campaign offensive (I know!) and successfully defended the case without difficulty, but their very well funded opponents have taken it to the Court of Appeal and that judgement is still “in the oven” at the time of writing.
So TfL were initially rather nervous about accepting a campaign from Stonewall in case anyone deemed it antagonistic. Luckily common sense prevailed.
Why am I telling you this?
Because I think that standing up for the right of people, supposedly equal in law, to be equal in actual life, is actually the responsibility of the many, rather than the few.
Through their pugnacious determination to be accepted for who they are, brave members of the gay community have campaigned and secured their legal right to be treated equally.
It’s now up to us all, gay and straight, to turn legal law into living law.
And to oppose the efforts of other groups wishing to deny gay people legitimacy.
If you agree and you feel you can help, please spread the word and add your voice.
And if you see or hear homophobic bullying, teasing or joshing in your workplace, or in the playground for that matter, try turning that blind eye into a properly civilised glare of disapproval and a few harsh words.
Thank you to Richard Hayter for creating the campaign and to Si Micheli, Rob DeCleyn, Mike Dobrin, Mark Lloyd, Mark Goodwin, Ruth Chapman and Graham Baker for making it all happen.