Friday, 28 January 2011

Johann Hari on Melanie Phillips and the "gay agenda"

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Those of you who use Twitter will no doubt have come across a particularly repulsive piece by Melanie Phillips in the Daily Mail earlier this week, in which she picked up on the recent legal victory for the gay couple turned away from a Cornish B&B, and the proposal that teachers could use LGBT History Month to encourage greater tolerance of homosexuality and reduce homophobic bullying, in order to suggest that "just about everything in Britain is now run according to the gay agenda".

It caused a lot of outrage (probably the desired affect, sadly), and the only reason I mention it now, and introduce it to those of you who have been lucky enough to avoid it so far, is so I can prescribe you the antidote, provided by the excellent Johann Hari in today's Independent. I urge you to go and read the piece in full, but to give you an idea, he offers a picture of the realities facing young people growing up gay in Britain by recounting the tragic story of Jonathan Reynolds of Bridgend, a 15-year-old who was subjected to homophobic bullying at school and committed suicide as a result:
"I guess nobody told Jonathan Reynolds that, as the columnist Melanie Phillips put it, “just about everything in Britain is now run according to the gay agenda.” The great Gay Conquest didn’t make it from her imagination to his playground, or any playground in Britain. Gay kids are six times more likely to commit suicide than their straight siblings. Every week, I get emails from despairing gay kids who describe being thrown against lockers, scorned by their teachers if they complain, and – in some faith schools – told they will burn in Hell. Every day they have to brave playgrounds where the worst insult you can apply is to call something “gay”. They feel totally lost. This could have been your child, or my child, or Melanie Phillips’ child.

Is it “political correctness” and “McCarthyism” to try to ensure these kids can feel safe in their own schools – or is it basic decency? A few very mild proposals were made this week for how to change the attitudes behind this. They came from an excellent organization called Schools Out, which is run with a small grant from the tax-payer. They gave out a voluntary information pack in which they suggested that, to mark LGBT History Month, teachers acknowledge the existence of gay people in their lessons. They could teach in history about how Alan Turing played a vital role in saving the world from the Nazis and paved the way for the invention of the computer, only to be hounded to death for being gay. They could learn in science that homosexuality occurs in hundreds of species of animals. They could – yes! – maybe even look in maths lessons at the census data, figuring out how prevalent gay people are."
Hari goes on to explain how such measures have been found to help reduce bullying in schools, and point out that the real "gay agenda" consists merely of ensuring that gay people are treated equally and protected from the ostracism and violence that they are still subjected to throughout the world (you only need to look at the horrific death of gay rights campaigner David Kato in Uganda this week for evidence of that).

It really is an excellent piece - do take some time to read it if you can.
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