Recently, a number of gay friends of mine have vented their frustrations to me about the contemporary politics of sexuality and ‘gender’. Their complaints vary. Some say ‘We have equality in Britain, we’ve got to the point where the vast majority couldn’t give a fig whether we’re gay or not. As such, I really don’t want my sexual orientation to define me: it’s just not important. Gay Pride makes such a fuss, what’s the point?’. They see their sexuality to be little more important to them than their hair colour or biscuit preference and find Gay Pride to be at best irrelevant, at worst very irritating. They don’t want to be ‘queer’ or ‘radical’, they want the right to be attracted to their own sex while being as dull as the rest of us. That seems fair enough to me. Surely getting to such a point was the purpose of the gay rights movement?
Others are less sanguine, though not for the reasons that you’d necessarily expect. They worry about gay rights being lumped in with a lot of other political claims that they are, to put it mildly, sceptical about. Some have begun to notice that kids who remind them of themselves at that age – for example, somewhat effeminate boys who aren’t into stereotypically ‘masculine’ pursuits – are not simply accepted as being what they almost always are – that is to say, gay – but rather are starting to be told that they’re ‘really’ girls. Some notice the unnerving parallel between Iran, a country that is so homophobic it sees transgenderism as not only preferable, but potentially an ‘answer’, to homosexuality, and some of the internalised (and family) homophobia that is clearly present among teenagers who present with gender dysphoria to, say, the Tavistock – and is then not challenged, or even reinforced, by professional clinicians. What has being trans got to do with one’s sexual preference anyway? What’s the ‘T’ doing in with the LGB in the first place? And as for the ever-growing alphabet soup that makes up the rest of the ubiquitous acronym of our age, what on earth does any of it have to do with gay rights, whatever its merits may be?
Not all gay men and women share these views, but my guess is that an awful lot more do than would be willing to say so out loud. There is probably a generational element to it, but several of the people who have voiced their doubts to me along these lines are in their early 30s: so it’s not only older gay men and lesbians who have these doubts by any means.
That’s why I thought this was an issue that really needs an airing, and I’m delighted to say here at Forum we’ve signed the brilliant Gareth Roberts to address these tensions. His new book – provisionally entitled Gay Shame: The Rise of Gender Ideology and the New Homophobia – promises not only to be a hard-hitting look at a very important issue, but also a book laced with his characteristic wit and humour.
Gareth goes further than some of the sneaking, as-yet tentative doubts that are creeping up on many gay men and lesbians. He argues that gender ideology is inherently homophobic and is heralding the rise of a new form of a very old prejudice, all under a ‘progressive’ guise. It’s difficult not to think he might have a point in an era when Stonewall brand lesbians who aren’t sure they want to have sex with ‘women’ who have penises ‘sexual racists’, or where lesbian and gay rights groups who are sceptical about claims that one can simply verbally declare oneself to be the opposite sex are thrown off Gay Rights marches. It’s hardly a surprise to me that lesbians aren’t wildly keen at being sexually coerced by people who have beards and penises and testicles and spermatoza and so on: those people whom most of us still think of as being ‘men’.
So far the danger that trans ideology poses to feminism and the cause of women has been pretty well-aired. The danger for gay people is less well-rehearsed, but also very important indeed. I think this caustic, amusing book will strike a chord with many gay men and lesbians who are far from sure that their hard-won right to be able to form relationships with people of their own sex are safe in the era of trans ideology.
George Owers, Editorial Director
Gay Shame: The Rise of Gender Ideology and the New Homophobia is due to publish in Autumn 2023. The views of this blogpost are not necessarily the views of Gareth Roberts.