Sunday, May 17, 2009

International Day Against Homophobia 2009

Michael Causer

17th May every year is International Day Against Homophobia. A lot of people aren't sure exactly what homophobia is, so what better day than IDAHO to talk about it.

Broadly speaking homophobia is a type of prejudice related to people's sexual orientation. And, as with racism, it can range from thoughtless hurtful language to violence and even to murder. But with racism there is a zero tolerance attitude in society, which is still far from true with homophobia.

When gay teen Michael Causer was murdered the judge and jury at the subsequent trial refused to accept that homophobia was the motive, even though it was the only credible explanation for what happened. As a consequence of the judge and jury's own prejudice one of Michael's killers, Gavin Alker left court a free man. Yet according to witnesses, Alker had used language such as "watch yourself, he's a poof" and "you little queer faggot"

Michael's murder was one of several homophobic attacks and murders in Britain in the past year.

It's the casual homophobia, such as name-calling and bullying common in both primary and secondary schools, which facilitates a climate of prejudice in which these serious crimes take place. Recently Jonathan Ross made a remark on his Radio 2 programme. He's reported to have said "if your son asks for a Hannah Montana MP3 player, you might want to already think about putting him down for adoption before he brings his...erm...partner home." Ofcom received some complaints, as did the BBC.

On Thursday I asked the BBC Diversity Centre what advice they had given the BBC about the Ross incident, but they didn't have a bad word to say about him. The Diversity Centre told me "these off-the-cuff remarks were made purely in jest and were not intended to be offensive. Jonathan is not homophobic in any sense and never meant for his comments to be taken seriously."

Teens thrown out their homes for being gay, or students who can't get a loan from their parents to study at college, would not see the funny side of Jonathan's so-called 'jest' and what's more the Corporation can hardly describe the unceasing innuendo about gay men on his Friday night TV programme as 'off-the-cuff.' The introductions to Friday Night with Jonathan Ross are carefully scripted, and every week include an innuendo-laden gibe about gay men.

If, as Jonathan claims, he is mortified about accusations of homophobia, he could make amends by going much further than a tweet in support of Peter Tatchell. He should put an end to all the innuendo and stereotyping on his Friday night programme, and choose a house band based on reasons other than their willingness to be demeaned.

And yes, Jonathan Ross does know that his innuendo about gay men is unacceptable. That was clear when, on 22 February last year, he compared himself with comedian/pariah Jim Davidson (see blog on 31 October 2008)

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