Why we love a good fall from grace (and why that’s ok)
From many quarters the accusation has been made that the story about Iris Robinson was the result of a “witch hunt” perpetrated by gay activists on account of the MP’s vile views against homosexuals. Despite the BBC’s Spotlight programme making it plain that the story came from her former advisor, Selwyn Black, and her former teenaged lover, Kirk McCambley, the accusations keep coming.
Nobody is denying that gay blogs, media outlets and the community in general have latched on to this story and others like it, giving column inches (virtual and otherwise) to each excruciating and salacious detail. There would be no point in denying that. Nor can we claim, as the mainstream media do, that the financial allegations are the primary public interest here. No, for the gay media and community, the minutiae of sexual impropriety are indeed central to our interest.
Are we, as gay people, simply more honest about our interest in all things sexual? Are we all drama queens? Is our delight at the age of Iris Robinson’s lover an indication that we simply love to be shocked? Are we singularly obsessed with the sex lives of public figures?
Well, maybe a little bit! However…
These scandals afford us the opportunity to point to a truth: that homophobia is morally suspect and is largely espoused by people who are likely to be less than moral in other areas of their lives as well.
Although the anti-gay and ex-gay movements are the causes célèbres of the right wing and fundamentalists, homophobia is in no way a Biblically honest position. If they were adhering to strict Biblical standards, they wouldn’t be focusing on the gays to the exclusion of divorce, adultery, women who refuse to wear head coverings in deference to their husbands, etc. Homophobia, transphobia and anti-choice movements are so popular because the “opponents” in these battles — gays, transpeople and women in crisis pregnancies — are seen as easy targets, and because they are minorities, fair game.
It is vital that people see that homophobes refuse to be judged by their own standards, and fail miserably even held against the basic standards of honesty and trust.
To be clear, I don’t think that all people who disagree with homosexuality are homophobic per se. Opinions are allowed, and must be. In this situation, disagreeing with homosexual behaviour becomes homophobic and immoral when a person with power and influence is happy to say hateful things about a vulnerable group of people, ignoring the devastating impact their words can have.
Homophobic individuals also attempt to impose their religious or other beliefs as law, even if the resulting legislation will create inequality and/or hardship for gay people and the status quo had no negative effect on themselves or other non-gay people whatsoever. These attitudes are egocentric, narcissistic and wantonly sadistic — not exactly the words that one would print on campaign posters.
Are we surprised when someone who is careless with comparing homosexuals to child molesters turns out to be on the take? Is negligence to the safety and dignity of one’s constituents that far from skimming a bit off the top? Is a total lack of respect for your own marital vows a huge leap from denying the right to those vows to an entire group of people, when allowing that right would have no impact on your life or the lives of non-gay people at all?
When a homophobe falls from grace and shows her or his true colours, it’s our opportunity as a community to say, “there you go. This is what people like that do.” We get the chance to show people that homophobia is dishonest and very much a sign of serious moral weakness that will ultimately show itself in other ways.
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