in Films and movies, Law, Politics, Rants

Red tow-away sign

Watching Milk was a reminder of the unusual sort of luxury supporting the gay rights movement actually provides. It is the kind of utterly unambiguous moral movement that emerges only rarely: where one side is unassailably aligned with human welfare and human rights, and the other is straightforwardly mistaken from top to bottom.

While it is tragic that significant numbers of educated people – people who think of themselves as ethical – continue to oppose equal rights for gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered people, it does seem worth hoping that the movement opposing these basic liberties will falter and die within our lifetimes, at least within the kind of developed states that have largely abandoned bigotry motivated by ill-founded personal revulsion or oppressive religious notions of morality. While it will take longer for the world as a whole to reach such a state, there does also seem to be reason to hope that it will eventually happen.

In the mean time, the movement for gay rights will continue to have a special motivating character, for all those who aspire to a more equitable and less benighted world. It represents one of the purest contests of sense and tolerance against bigotry and violence ongoing in the world today.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

R.K. November 9, 2009 at 11:27 am

Some people might object to you celebrating the luxury of moral clarity here. It seems like an oddly self-serving way to respond to the ongoing denial of gay rights around the world.

. November 9, 2009 at 1:43 pm

Malcolm X was bisexual. Get over it

Black History Month should help break down homophobia by celebrating the sexuality of black heroes such as Malcolm X

Peter Tatchell, Tuesday 20 October 2009 21.00 BST

October is Black History Month in Britain – a wonderful celebration of the huge, important and valuable contribution that black people have made to humanity and to popular culture.

It is also worth celebrating that many leading black icons have been lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT), most notably the US black liberation hero Malcolm X. Other prominent black LGBTs include jazz singer Billie Holiday, author and civil rights activist James Baldwin, soul singer-songwriter Luther Vandross, blues singer Bessie Smith, poet and short story writer Langston Hughes, singer Johnny Mathis, novelist Alice Walker, civil rights activist and organiser of the 1963 March on Washington Bayard Rustin, blues singer Ma Rainey, dancer and choreographer Alvin Ailey, actress, singer and dancer Josephine Baker, Olympic diving gold medallist Greg Louganis, singer and songwriter Little Richard, political activist and philosopher Angela Davis, singer-songwriter Tracy Chapman and drag performer and singer RuPaul.

Few of these prominent black LGBT achievers are listed on the most comprehensive UK Black History Month website, which hosts biographies of notable black men and women. In the section on people, only Davis is mentioned and her lesbianism is not acknowledged. The website fails to identify the vast majority of black public and historical figures who are LGBT. The Official Guide to Black History Month UK is equally remiss. Why these omissions? Black people are not one homogenous heterosexual mass. Where is the recognition of sexual diversity within the black communities and black history?

Tris November 9, 2009 at 3:44 pm

“It represents one of the purest contests of sense and tolerance against bigotry and violence ongoing in the world today.”

There is something malignant about valorizing the purity of drives against violence, in that it immediate de-values any movement opposed to the status quo which cannot afford the luxury of non-violence.

Much violence has been done in the name of “purity”, and I think that valuing the battle for gay rights above the battle against povery, against the downfall of egalitarianism, against economic and political imperialism, against questioning Israeli human rights violations, etc… can’t be entirely divided from this history.

Milan November 9, 2009 at 3:46 pm

All I am saying is, when it comes to gay rights there are no legitimate interests on the opposing side. People don’t have the right not to be offended, or to impose their preferred family or relationship type on other people.

When it comes to poverty, imperialism, the Middle East, etc, the moral issues involved are much more complex, and it is virtually never appropriate to be entirely on one side of an issue.

. November 9, 2009 at 3:55 pm

Blog index >> Gay rights

Tris November 9, 2009 at 4:20 pm

Do you think I disagree with that? My point is that concentrating on “simple” cases is itself a form of bias. Concentrating on making the world better only in non-complex ways will almost certainly produce a horrid future.

Milan November 9, 2009 at 4:21 pm

Obviously, we shouldn’t only worry about cut-and-dry cases. That being said, dealing with such matters can be a nice antidote to the depression that accompanies hard cases where little progress is being made.

claire November 10, 2009 at 3:51 am


I felt the same sense of intellectual relief/euphoria at the moral clarity of the struggle against apartheid when i visited South Africa last year, so can completely relate. While it is not always useful to couch social struggles as so black and white (excuse pun), strong narratives of ‘good versus evil’ have the ability to mobilise people on a scale which, in the case of South Africa, ultimately proved instrumental in achieveing change.

. November 14, 2009 at 12:43 pm

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