The protests in Egypt this week have, without doubt, been hugely inspring. We must, as Western observers of this potentially huge shift in power, take heart from the fact that, even after years of what looks like stable autocracy, a population can rise up against the dominant doctrine of the ruling classes and challenge it seriously and vigorously. We forget in Britain, all too often, that our comparable liberty stems from hard-fought battles both on the streets of our cities and in the chambers of parliament and that these ‘liberties’ are not so established as to be cemented in our nation forever after.We must not be prone to myopia as we face the challenges of the future and must continue to ensure that the social freedoms we enjoy continue are staunchly defended and widened.
“I’ve said we should scrap The Human Rights Act”- David Cameron
This week saw the start of LGBT history month; a time to reflect upon the contribution people from the LGBT community have made to our communities and the struggles which they have overcome. It has only been legal for men to have sex with other men for 44 years (or 19 years, ironically, if you were unlucky enough to have been gay on The Isle of Man). It has only been 7 years that same-sex couples have been allowed to register their commitment with the state. Gay couples still can’t get married but as Peter Tatchell has said ‘[This is] the last homophobic law in The UK]’. Yet we would be foolish to think that legislation ultimately removes discrimination.
This week Johann Hari’s wonderful piece in The Independent exposed a move by some on the right, led by the irrepressibly awful Melanie Philips, to steer schools away from the teaching of LGBT history and to fight against the ‘gay agenda’ that has taken over our green and pleasant land. It is not a majority of people who think like this. In a poll a few years ago 9% of people said they would reject a gay or lesbian child; not great but a massive improvement on historical standards. In terms of children’s educations 51% said that gay relationships should be taught in schools as being of equal value to heterosexual relationships. We have, it seems, a small majority when it comes to fighting for equality in our classrooms. What we must be acutely aware of is the increasing weight given to ‘political correctness’ gone mad arguments. When 70% of gay children get bullied it is not ‘mad’ to help schools make their lives more bearable. When, and I experienced this only a few days ago, several thousand football fans can openly and without fear of reproach call a player a ‘poof’ or a ‘faggot’ we are clearly not living in a society over run by the strangling force of political correctness.
We are not facing an unlected government in The UK but we are living in a country that is being run by a party that has a historical tendency that leans starkly away from progress. As the government ‘cracks down’ on ‘unnecessary’ regulation and legislation we must be vigilant and ensure that the rights that have been created through movements on our streets are not pushed aside. We must stand in solidarity with Egyptians and keep looking over our shoulder to ensure that the things we hold dear are not eroded by a government hell-bent on purging us from the ‘burden’ of being protected by regulation, rights and legislation. Legislation does not protect us from discrimination but it sets a tone upon which we can build. It is all too easy for a government, damaged by premature and economically illiterate spending cuts, to jump on the ‘political correctness gone mad’ populist bandwagon.
This LGBT month let us all remember the sacrifices made by the heroes of the past to whom we owe the promise that we will continue their fight.
Have a look School’s Out.