Monday, March 11, 2013

No, Queen Elizabeth isn't fighting for gay rights

Rupert Alexander's 2010 portrait of
Queen Elizabeth II
After an initial flurry of misplaced enthusiasm by some gays in Britain who apparently felt that a dicey divination of an endorsement of gay rights by England's premier aristocrat, in her dotage, was significant, there came a splash of bracing cold water from a thoroughly unimpressed Patrick Strudwick in The Guardian:
Queen fights for gay rights, declared the Mail on Sunday's front page yesterday – a headline so jarring and implausible as to provoke a number of grave questions for middle England. Chiefly: whatever next? Queen stands as Labour councillor? Queen does the Harlem Shake?
     ...Her "historic pledge to promote gay rights" as the paper put it (or "historic step forward" as Stonewall's Ben Summerskill had it), will comprise her signing a new Commonwealth charter, which states:
"We are implacably opposed to all forms of discrimination, whether rooted in gender, race, colour, creed, political belief or other grounds."
     Fighting for gay rights? The Queen won't even mention them. She dare not speak our name – that is, if you believe she is even referring to gay people; if you buy the newspaper's inference that "other grounds" denotes an "implicit support of gay rights".
     ...No, to refrain from specification is to collude with silence, the Grand Pause that keeps lesbians and gay men invisible, suffocating in marriages of inconvenience or trapped in police cells. The hush of polite conversation is the rusty mattock of a millennium's oppression. By contrast, in the west, the one tool that started prising open the chamber of horrors in which LGBT people lived, was the simple self-expression of coming out, of specifying, of stating our innate being aloud.
     And according to a Palace spokesman, the charter's words are not even the monarch's: "In this charter, the Queen is endorsing a decision taken by the Commonwealth… The Queen does not take a personal view on these issues. The Queen's position is apolitical."
     Of course. Stating that all humans deserve rights is "political". How controversial it is that people should not be discriminated against. But how laughable would it be for an unelected head of state to preach equality anyway?
     ...If only the alleged intention were expressed explicitly, unequivocally. Most Commonwealth nations, injected by our colonial laws and Old Testament homophobia in the first place, need it. Desperately.
Wrote activist Peter Tatchell:
     More than 40 of the 54 Commonwealth countries still criminalise homosexuality, mostly under laws imposed by Britain during the colonial era. Six of these countries stipulate life imprisonment. Uganda is currently considering legislation that would introduce the death penalty for repeat gay offenders.
     ...Astonishingly, since she became Queen in 1952, the words ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’ have never publicly passed her lips. There is no record of her ever speaking them. Even when she announced government plans for gay law reform in her Queen’s Speeches, she did not use the words lesbian or gay.
     Apparently, mentioning LGBT people is beneath the dignity of the monarch.
     The official British Monarchy website, which documents all the Queen’s public statements and royal visits, includes no mention of the word gay or of any gay good causes. Type the word ‘gay’ into the search facility and you get nothing.
     The Queen visits lots of charities and welfare organisations. But never in 61 years has she visited a gay charity or welfare agency. She has, for example, ignored deserving gay charities like the Albert Kennedy Trust and Stonewall Housing, which support homeless LGBT youth. Although she is a patron of many good causes, none of them are gay.
     When there are major tragedies involving the loss of life, the Queen often visits the site and the victims in hospital. This did not happen when neo-Nazi, David Copeland, bombed the Admiral Duncan gay pub in Soho, London, in 1999, killing three people and wounding 70 others. At the time, it was the worst terrorist outrage in mainland Britain for many years. To most people’s surprise, the Queen did not visit the bombed-out pub or the hospitalised victims.

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