Deborah Orr on George Michael. She's not homophobic but she wants to talk about our "proclivities" and the behaviour we "indulge" in
Deborah Orr in the Independent has commented on the fact that George Michael has been found in public toilets (again) with drugs. The whole article is here.
On the surface she makes what look like some fair points. However, dig a little deeper and the article starts to come off just a bit bigoted. She talks about Michael's "sexual proclivities" ("proclivities" is a very loaded word - almost always used to refer to negative cases). She claims that gay men can get married. Er no. We can have "civil partnerships". This is not the same as marriage by a long way. She talks about gay men as people who "have a weird dispensation for al fresco sex in public places." Is it really that weird? She claims also that "there appears to be no decline in clandestine activity" - although doesn't seem to have any evidence to back this up. And at one point she uses the verb "indulge" - as with "proclivities" this is a very loaded word - it tends to be used when we want to signify how much we disapprove of someone's behaviour.
It does seem like a very odd article to go in the Independent - it looks much more suited to the Daily Mail. It's telling that Ms Orr doesn't complain about heterosexual "dogging". And that she assumes that it is "gay men" who "indulge" in alfresco sex. She's probably never heard of the term MSM before. Most gay men don't need to go cruising in parks - they have other options. It tends to be the men who don't consider themselves gay at all who have to take that as an option.
And sadly, even though Ms Orr claims to be "all for equality" - I'm sure that won't apply to all of her readers. Gay men are still classed as what sociologists call a "vulnerable group". And rightly so. Some nutter planted a bomb in a gay pub (The Admiral Duncan) only a few years ago. In the 2006 British Social Attitudes Survey, almost 20% of people said that they agreed with the statement "homosexual relationships are always wrong" and 30% of people neither agreed nor disagreed. The remaining 50% disagreed. The word "gay" is routinely used to mean "lame" in playgrounds and is used in the same way by some television and radio presenters. We still live in a society where being gay is seen by a significant number of people as problematic - and it doesn't take much for these people to get riled up.
So whatever our feelings about cruising/cottaging/dogging, I don't think that it's helpful for articles like this to be published in national newspapers - I think they will do more damage than good. Complaining about gay people cruising is unlikely to stop people from doing it - although it is more likely to increase homophobia, which will prevent people from coming out, which ironically will lead to more furtive sex in parks.