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Ann Bradley

Gay rights? Don't count on it

A new study into America's sexual mores has apparently horrified gay protest groups in the USA. The findings of researchers at the University of Chicago, yet to be published over here, suggest that there are far fewer lesbians and gay men around than the campaigns for homosexual equality have usually claimed. The new study, based on interviews with 3200 Americans, reveals fewer than 3 per cent of the population are 'committed homosexuals', while 4.5 per cent admit to having had occasional same sex activity. Gay groups are worried that the report is set to reduce their clout.

In agitating for gay rights, groups like Act-Up have generally used the argument that their numbers make them too significant a minority for politicians to ignore. Demonstrations and protests have trumpeted the received wisdom from the days of Alfred Kinsey, that one in 10 guys are gay. The conclusion politicians were supposed to draw was that if a tenth of the population are doing something, it must be OK. There was also an implied threat that attacking homosexuals might lose you a tenth of all votes.

I always thought these kind of 'head count' arguments were rather specious. Faced with the '1 in 10' statistic, your average reactionary politician seems more likely to respond that he knew there were too many of those buggers about. And even the moderate ones would rather play happy family values with the 90 per cent heterosexual constituency, than go out on a limb for the gay 10 per cent. But gay activists have stuck with the tactic. Part of the philosophy behind 'outing' is that the acceptability of gays will increase with their visibility.

Gay activists have claimed that the Chicago study is a biased attempt to marginalise them. We have to reserve judgement on the quality of the research until it's available here. But it wouldn't be surprising if, in these years of growing sexual conservatism, fewer people are glad to be gay, and consequently fewer people will admit it in a survey. Maybe there are also fewer people who see it is an acceptable sexual identity. I don't know, and either way, it doesn't affect my commitment to gay rights.

The issue is straightforward and has nothing to do with statistics. Discrimination against homosexuals is a denial of basic democratic rights. How many or how few there are doesn't come into it. If US gay groups are worried that the Chicago study will undermine their argument - it's only because they've been using the wrong argument. The case against bigotry is as strong as ever.

It may have been a bad summer for the royals, but the Windsors can draw comfort from the lack of organised opposition to their parasitical existence.

Most of the serious stick which the royal family has received in the media has come from the Tory side: Andrew Neil's Sunday Times has pontificated on the place of the monarchy in the New Britain, while the Sun publishes surveys which show that more than half of its readers think the royals are an expensive extravagance.

But even these Murdoch papers have made clear that they are not republican. In fact their most common complaint seems to be that the royal family isn't royal enough. The most bitter criticism levelled at the younger royals is that they are bringing the venerable institution into disrepute.

The Labour-supporting Mirror, meanwhile, has tried to lead those rallying to the defence of the royals. The Mirror's revelations of those Fergie photos and the toe-sucking episode were all presented, not as an attack on the royal lifestyle, but as proof that this flabby Sloane was not fit to be a member of Britain's first and finest family. When the Sun printed transcripts of the Dianagate tapes, the Mirror responded with a 'Long to reign over us' front page, claiming that its readers still wanted Di to be Queen.

And what of the Labour Party itself? It was striking that the modest proposal for the Queen to pay a bit of income tax on part of her untold wealth came from within the Palace itself. As Living Marxism has noted before, throughout Labour's long obsession with who ought to pay how much tax, it has never dared to suggest that the richest woman on Earth might deign to dip her hand into her pocket. Now Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition has been made to look even less radical than Her Majesty herself.

All of which makes the royal scandals something of a microcosm of the state of British politics today. The Tories and the establishment have lost their grip to such an extent that they are turning in on themselves and attacking their own institutions. Yet they are continually being let off the hook by an opposition which can best be described as, well, squidgy.

It's comforting to know that the police are to adopt a code of
ethics. It is supposed to ensure that officers 'act justly within the law', 'uphold human rights', and 'avoid force wherever possible'. It will be displayed in every police station as a reminder that coppers should either behave - or be seen to be behaving.

The police are trying very hard these days to project a right-on image, but watch out for the iron fist in the velvet glove. I received a very chatty little circular letter from our local police station last week explaining how they are working to 'stamp out vice' in my area. It contains three sides of banal advice about personal safety, the effect of which is to lull you into a false sense of security before you get to the controversial bit.

Buried among handy hints like 'walk towards oncoming traffic' is the paragraph about the 'proposed use of police cameras'.

It seems the Force are setting up cameras to conduct a street surveillance operation in my area. While it's nice to know that 'no close up views into premises through windows will be taken', I'm rather more concerned that they plan to use the cameras to 'gather information and intelligence' and 'for training purposes'.

I suppose that with the new code we can at least rest assured that the cameras really are to protect vulnerable women, and that they have nothing to do with a campaign of harassment against local black youth. It just wouldn't be ethical.

Reproduced from Living Marxism issue 48, October 1992

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