Tag Archives: rage

Saatchi divorces Lawson (and yes, it IS that way round)

I don’t have language bad enough to describe Charles Saatchi, the abuser and art collector who is divorcing his wife, Nigella Lawson, in part because he is “disappointed that she was advised to make no public statement to explain that […] [he] has never abused her physically in any way“. In other words, that she had enough self-respect not to make a statement lying to her children and to the public, after we’ve all seen the pictures. Of him abusing her, physically, in a particularly nasty way.

I struggle to get through this post without obscenity and all caps. I am aware that Saatchi has only been cautioned for domestic abuse. I would nevertheless be delighted if the words “Wife-choker” appeared in front of Saatchi’s name, every time he is mentioned in print or by broadcasters, for the rest of earthly time. I’m also reminded of the moment in the Forsyte Saga when Winifred Dartie tells her worthless husband “Monty, you are the limit” and it’s so offensive he pushes off to South America for years and years. Nothing else from that era would improve the situation now, but – if only it were so easy to make (wife-choker) Charles Saatchi disappear. At least until Lawson and her children have completely rebuilt their lives.

Also: since some people remain unclear, here is the definitive statement as to What You Should Do If You See A Man Assaulting A Woman (assuming you do not have incontrovertible first-person evidence the woman doesn’t want you to interfere, AND that knowledge outweighs the immediate danger in which she’s in):

Go over and try to stop him, then call the police. IF that would be too dangerous, or take too long, just call the police. If you can do so safely, take a picture of the abuse/aftermath and immediately make it available to the authorities. Not anyone else. And especially not Twitter.

Saatchi’s long posed as a terrible man – hence his book, entitled Be The Worst You Can Be. If only we’d taken the pose more seriously.

[REVIEW] Bitch Boxer at the Soho Theatre

On Wednesday, I saw Bitch Boxer at the Soho Theatre; a one-hour, one-woman play written and performed by Charlotte Josephine. Having seen Josephine in Julius Caesar earlier this year, I was excited to see her own work – and, to be honest, I’m a bit in love with the Soho Theatre and their apparent directorial policy of ‘stage work that Sophie wants to see, and don’t charge her more than a tenner for doing so’. For me, Bitch Boxer was an incredibly inspiring, salutary and encouraging piece of theatre. Alongside my fascination with the play’s story and characters, I was delighted to see such a young writer and performer performing with such skill and immediacy – and being so warmly received.

Bitch Boxer is the story of Chloe, a young working-class boxer from Leytonstone, East London, who is gearing up for her final qualifying fight before the London Olympics; the first Olympics in which women could box. I am a bespectacled, myopic, borderline-dyspraxic, undersized and severely uncoordinated scrap of laziness, and I came out of Bitch Boxer wanting to box. The play’s exposition of the sport’s technical side is unexpectedly fascinating. I also found Bitch Boxer a more complex and nuanced exploration of boxing than On It, Tony Pitts’s recent Afternoon Play about the late Liam Jones, a young drug addict who attempted to conquer his addictions via boxing. Both plays tell powerful stories of pain and loss, but Bitch Boxer gets far further beyond the predictable narrative of boxing-as-emotional-salvation. Not only does Chloe use boxing to express and control her adolescent anger, but training and fighting give her an identity that reorders and reorients the rest of her life. Bitch Boxer‘s most emotionally articulate scene is Chloe’s recognition that her opponent in the ring is as determined, excited, frightened and committed as herself. This gives the boxer a compassion and respect for the process of fighting that makes the final confrontation moving, but not mawkish.

I said that Josephine was warmly received by her audience, and the vast majority of the reviews have also been excellent. However, one critic has objected in misogynist – and also misspelt – terms that Charlotte Josephine’s body is not plausibly that of a boxer, and that this physical dissonance damages the integrity and believability of the piece. That is an extremely polite paraphrase of what this lone lunatic actually came out with, and I’m not going to link to the review, because, well, don’t feed the trolls.

Firstly, Charlotte Josephine’s body is very plausibly that of a boxer. Secondly, and not to position myself as the tiny Cassandra of critical misogyny, but after watching Bitch Boxer, I was expecting to find that this kind of play would draw this kind of criticism. Women cannot put their bodies out in public looking like Charlotte Josephine looks, without attractive derisive male comment. Josephine looks fit and strong, in a way that’s toned but which connotes substance, strength and stamina, rather than the ultra-tiny LA yoga bod that’s the  mainstream default and pinnacle of the sporty female body. She looks admirably powerful. It’s not really surprising that a woman daring to be visibly sporty, healthy and herself causes controversy: for God’s sake, look at what happened to Rebecca Adlington and Jessica Ennis.

I sat there watching Josephine and I thought how brave she was not to be in Sweaty Betty pinkified sports gear, but instead to look like a boxer, in Lonsdale shorts, black ankle socks and an ordinary vest; all of them sweat-soaked, as the intensely physical piece progressed. And then I wondered what the hell had happened to society, and to my brain, that I found it brave for a young woman to dress as her character without concessions to sexiness, and that I couldn’t ever remember seeing an actress visibly sweat. In order to bring out the troll in one theatrical critic, all Charlotte Josephine had to do was be visible as a professional and as an artist. Quite often, that is all we have to do, as women, to infuriate misogynists: just show up. I encourage you to show up at Bitch Boxer, as soon as you can.

A Snuff Box Theatre production, Bitch Boxer runs at about 65 minutes, includes Eminem karaoke, bereavement, a confrontation with a savage dog, and a controversial pair of Nikes. With Julius Caesar only last month, I’m suddenly incredibly hopeful about the future of feminist theatre.


Advent Calendar Day 7: Charity!

The quintessential Christmas charity is probably the Salvation Army. Personally, though, I’m uncomfortable donating to the SA due to their historic (and contemporary) attitudes to LGBT people, and, of their militaristic, evangelical style of Christianity.

Christmas Charity Fun Run, 2011. Awesome (and unrelated to the SA...)

Christmas Charity Fun Run, 2011. Awesome (and unrelated to the SA…)

Enough hate. Today’s window opens on other and perhaps worthier causes (chosen in entirely idiosyncratic and incomplete fashion by me) to which you might like to donate this Christmas!

Of course, not everyone has spare cash for donations at the moment. So, here are places where just a few moments’ clicking or playing allows you to donate to charity without spending any money yourself:

Petition to allow Anglican clergy to bless civil partnerships in church

David and Jonathan

Cheery and not even slightly suggestive image of Jonathan with David, the latter sporting gorgeous must-have-this-season dead!Goliath accessory. Found in St. Giles's Cathedral, Edinburgh, photo by Lawrence OP.

Provided in the comments to my previous post, “Born This Way” and the Sanctity of (all) Marriage was a link to the following petition:

Petition to allow Anglican clergy to bless civil partnerships in church.

In December 2011, it became legally possible for civil partnerships to be blessed in houses of worship. Currently, Anglican clergy are not allowed to do this, but a growing number seek to do so openly and without threat to their careers. A letter to this effect was printed in The Times, and signed by over 120 clergy from across the Diocese of London.

For me, this is only an interim step – I want to see gay marriage within the Church of England, during my lifetime. That is, gay couples being married to each other using a recognisably Christian marriage service, inside Anglican churches, by current Anglican priests, then signing marriage certificates and having the option to use marital titles (e.g. husband/wife) if they so choose, with the same religious, social and legal standing as heterosexual couples, without

a) it making the blindest bit of difference whether either or both parties are ordained ministers, priests, or Rowan Williams himself,

b) anyone feeling entitled or obliged to question whether the couple are in a sexual relationship, because it is neither a problem nor anyone else‘s business, or

c) the celebrant, assistant, or clergy in the congregation having to worry about the ramifications for their present and future careers.

This is a long way from what the Diocese of London is asking today. However, I truly believe that the success of this petition would be the first step to achieving everything I’ve described. So, if you sympathise, please sign here.

“Born This Way” and the Sanctity of (all) Marriage

It doesn’t matter if you love him
or capital H – I – M
‘Cause you were born this way, baby

There’s nothing wrong with loving who are
she said, ’cause He made you perfect, babe

(this is a longer post than usual, and rather more discursive. Please bear with me, and/or flick straight to the end if you want some soundtrack)

Part 1: Born This Way

Some people who are LGBT (and, I presume, some allies) find the “born this way” argument is offensive because it excuses, rather than validates a queer identity. For them,”born this way” implies that gayness/queerness should be accepted because it’s inescapable, unavoidable, and something that person can’t “help”.

At best, the person “born this way” should be accepted by wider society, because that person’s sexuality is natural “for them”. At worst, someone “born this way” deserves tolerance because their queerness is not their “fault”.

Further dread of the “born this way” argument arises from the possibility of research into genetic causation/correlation with homosexuality. If there is a gay gene, they argue, what good can come from knowing about it?

Discovering a gene won’t accelerate real equality: tolerance on the basis of chromosomal inevitability isn’t the same as truly accepting diverse sexualities. Secondly, a “gay gene” is something for which parents could potentially “screen”, leading to the abortion of some fetuses with the gay gene.

Thirdly, in a world where queers really were “born this way”, what would happen to people who lack the queer gene but identify as queer?

I can follow all of the above, but personally – and with some shame, because questioning others’ sexual identity is, as one friend put it “very NO” – I find the anti-Gaga brigade unsettling.

This is not just because of how the aforementioned Gaga looks in the underwear, sorry, prison sequences of the Telephone vid. Many (even most) of us do experience our sexuality – gay, straight, bi, pan, asexual, queer, whatever – as innate, natural and something we were born with. For us, part of coming to terms with our own sexuality and desire is accepting that we were “born this way”; it’s natural for us, it’s “part of who we are”.

To many gays born before homosexuality was legalised and/or achieved a degree of acceptance, the idea that you’re not born gay is understandably offensive — the whole reason they persisted with difficult self-acceptance and coming-out was because they WERE born this way. They had no other choice. They fought for their rights; their sexual identity is hard-won, and to see younger queers saying otherwise – either that, like Cynthia Nixon, they “choose” to be a specific sexuality, or (more broadly) that they believe sexuality is fluid, playful, fun, a matter of jouissance – both denigrates that struggle and infers that those who “choose” to be gay could equally “choose” to be straight. An idea that many LGBTQ people know to be false, and at the root of problematic constructions of (e.g.) homosexuality as a “lifestyle choice” – LGBTQ Nation claimed that Nixon’s words would be “used as a brutal club against LGBT youth in Red State America”.

I do experience my sexual orientation as innate. For a bit I definitely identified as bisexual. I’m not. I don’t think I was being dishonest when I thought that, but I don’t think it was accurate either (nor do I think it’s helpful of Nixon to claim to have “chosen to be gay” because “nobody likes the bisexuals“). It upsets me when discussions in queer circles (especially radical queer circles) invalidate the “born this way” position (along with other positions/wishes such as the desire for equal marriage rights).

But then I tend to focalise how I see LGBTQ issues through an historical awareness – I have problems with straight people claiming the label “queer”. “Queer” was a slur against lesbians and gays: accordingly I’m uncomfortable with anyone using it in a reclamatory sense outside the group originally persecuted. In fact, I have problems with the label “queer” as an umbrella identity (i.e., when people use “queer” to mean “LGBTQ”/sexual identities other than straight) because I know that a lot of older gay, lesbian and bisexual people register the term as a slur and can’t feel part of it. I’d rather find new words and stay in a continuum with our history. This discomfort with vocabulary does make me twitchy in radical-queer-discussion-situations, but on the flipside I’ve always been lucky enough to know older lesbians and gays, and it’s an excellent payoff.

I understand that other LGBTQ people don’t experience their sexuality as something innate, and as a choice, and that it goes against every tenet of equal rights to want them to shut up and prop up my arguments and identities, rather than embracing theirs. From experience, observation and my limited understand of genetics, I still think that most people do not experience their sexuality as a “choice” – coming-out, (hopefully) yes; behaviour, yes; orientation, no. But some do, and that’s okay (but baby, I was born this way. &c).

Part 2: The Sanctity of Marriage

Re-examining the “born this way” argument (which probably also appeals to me because of my Christianity – but that’s another post) has also got me thinking about some of the other pro-equality arguments I see floating through dialogue & also cyberspace. These include the following graphics:

NOW! Cousin-marriage is PROBABLY NOT THE GREATEST, given the potential for pre-existing abuse and future-existing webbed feet, hairy backs, genetic issues (&c – although we don’t veto other couples whose genetic combinations are problematic, do we?) to the power of however many times the pattern is repeated. Chinlessness may have made Britain great, but a quick glance around Oxford tells me we now have enough of it. ON THE OTHER HAND, the potential silliness, rashness and corn-chewing inadvisibility of pro-cousin marriage has NOTHING to do with the desirability of gay marriage.

I understand the the impulse behind all of these graphics. I am a lover of satire and a believer in laughing stupidity into change. Neither do I mean to bite the hand that feeds me and/or my eventual right to marry. But I have a problem with the message that it’s wrong to say that gay marriage will threaten the “sanctity of marriage” because marriage has no sanctity left to threaten. Equally, I reject the idea that Newt Gringrich’s pronouncements on “respecting the sanctity of marriage” are misguided or shouldn’t be heeded because of his track record.

If every marriage since the dawn of time had been “sacred” – made in covenant with a deity, subject to vows which both partners believed and upheld at the point of undertaken, and utterly faithful and happy since – then that wouldn’t make gay marriage less desirable. Gay marriage isn’t “more OK” because the institution of heterosexual marriage is in a parlous state. The existence of 55-hour marriages, multiple divorces, bigamy, forced marriage, acrimonious custody battles, Las Vegas and the Kardashians does not create a precedent for gay marriage, not a matrimonial space in which gay marriage has the “right” to come and become joint-worst of a thoroughly bad bunch.

Gay marriage is OK because people of all genders deserve the right to form loving unions of equal legal, social and religious validity, regardless of their individual physical or genetic make-up. Newt Gingrich’s shameful personal behaviour (while she was recovering from CANCER, people) makes his statements against the freedom to marry hypocritical as well as offensive – but he’d have no greater credibility even if he’d always been faithful.

This post has been brought to you by Lady Gaga, Cynthia Nixon and discussions at the Oxford Queer Studies Circle earlier this year; not a bad combination. Popular movements such as breast cancer awareness are happily starting to reappraise the media used to send their message (go here for more on why all the pink games aren’t helpful, and a viral graphic that’s actually useful in raising awareness). Obviously, gay marriage needs all the affirmation it can get. I still think it’s time to look more closely at some of the arguments that supposedly “support” our cause.

And to end on a musical note — Maria Aragon, aged 10, sings Gaga (and then ends up on stage with her…):

A religious rant: General Synod & offering the Eucharist to all

With most of the media overtaken by the horror that is the News of the World phone-hacking scandal, the General Synod is – understandably – quite low on the news radar.

For the Anglican Church, this is a good week to bury bad news – or, indeed, bad theology. Following the Guardian‘s liveblog yesterday, I was surprised to see the issue of “open table” communion up for date. This is the policy by which (as many churches word it) anyone “in good standing with their own Church”, “baptised Christians” or, simply, “anyone who wishes to” may come forward and receive Communion (the bread and wine) during a normal Eucharist, regardless of whether they’ve been confirmed.

To my horror, I found out that generous, sane practice is actually illegal according to Church law.

The liturgy of the Eucharist emphasises individual preparation and emotional openness before God: the last words we speak before going up to the rail are Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word, and I shall be healed. Our own willingness to take communion, to unite ourselves with the “one body” that shares one bread and one cup, is what puts meaning into those words, but we are still “unworthy” to receive God; we’re all imperfect, struggling human beings and only God can change that. Whether or not we’ve gone through Confirmation doesn’t change or essential humanity, or “earn” us the right to receive the fruits of Grace and a sacrifice, made through the Crucifixion, which we can never hope to deserve. How can it be that someone can stand in church, say the Eucharistic prayer, mean all the promises it contains, but still be barred from its culmination, Communion? What on earth is a non-confirmed person meant to do, stand there in silence?

Nobody should have to take Communion, of course, and I think it’s great that people can just come up for a blessing (although I think that can seem quite daunting in its own right). But if, in the course of a Sunday service, someone is moved to receive the body and blood of Jesus Christ (or its memorial equivalents, depending on their belief), and to put themselves into that intimacy with God, whether it’s for the first time in their lives or after an extended period away from religion, absolutely nothing should stand in their way.

I can’t imagine anyone taking Eucharist for the “wrong” reasons – I’m not sure what those would be, and I don’t think it could meaningfully devalue or “damage” the ritual in any way.

I have never understood why children old enough to consume the bread and wine in safety, who attend church regularly and are part of church life, are less entitled to Communion than adults who never come to church, but who went through a Confirmation ceremony thirty or forty years ago. Rightly, adults with dementia are allowed Communion, as are those whose learning difficulties would make the prescribed course of  Confirmation preparation (even though such preparation is wildly non-standardised) imposible; accordingly, the issue of intellectual-understanding-as-entitlement is already recognised as irrelevant in some cases.

I was confirmed at thirteen, following all the usual preparation and by a bona fide bishop; I am now twenty-four, and, I hope, have a better and deeper understanding of Christianity both through education and lived experience (n.b. this is totally without any claims to being a better person). I don’t think that makes me more entitled to Communion now than I was previously.

The whole issue of entitlement stinks. Nobody who wants to make the commitment, receive the comfort, or join in the community of the Eucharist should be denied the opportunity. Anglicans are supposed to believe in a God of enormity and power – one who created Heaven and Earth, and then sent his Son to die a miserable, agonising, death. Before bringing him back from the dead. I have never understood how someone so awesome, transcendent, so obviously supernatural in force, could be supposed to even care about the petty, legalistic and so obviously man-made trifles that make up so much of what’s spiteful and divisive in Church debate.

I don’t believe in Biblical infallibility or in the supremacy of reason and compassion over Scriptures that have been edited, manipulated, translated and transposed for two millennia; but since many people who’ll disagree with this post do, I’ll (nearly) end with one of the (relatively few) Bible verses that speaks to me (oh help, I’m quoting the Bible on my blog, this feels like one step away from subscribing to LadiesAgainstFeminism.com NoThat’sNotAHoax). In brief:

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

[Romans 8:38-39, King James Version]

Additional translation: if you feel you want to take Communion, do it. God won’t care, he’ll be glad, stop worrying, & furthermore the Anglican Synod (with the exception of the cool/sane/honourable Malcolm Halliday &c) are bureaucratic idiots who depress me hugely in their refusal to ratify the open altar and practice what Jesus told them to preach.

Rape and anti-rape

Once again, I’d like to know why anti-rape advice focuses on women changing their behaviour, not men. I’m not saying that “don’t walk alone at night in unsafe places” isn’t advice that might stop SOME women being raped.

But if that advice is given – from schools up – I want it to be followed by the spoken phrase “because some men are absolute sick bastards”, not the unspoken “because if you do, you deserve it”.

Best way to stop women being raped by men? MEN: DON’T RAPE WOMEN. If men STOP RAPING WOMEN, there will be no women BEING RAPED BY MEN. Essentially, women are raped because SOME MEN CHOOSE TO RAPE THEM. Not because of short skirts or routes home.

We have to be careful what we wear and where we go, not because there’s anything inherently or morally wrong with certain clothes or certain addresses, for god’s sake. We have to be careful because of some men being rapists. PLENTY OF MEN are not. However, NO WOMEN deserve to be raped.

Again, MEN: DON’T RAPE WOMEN. The best and indeed ONLY piece of anti-rape advice which, IF FOLLOWED, is GUARANTEED to reduce rape-against-women figures to almost nothing. INDEED, following this advice makes a dramatic drop in rape figures LITERALLY INEVITABLE.

Anyway, as you were.

BNP, MEPs: Not a protest vote.

Reading about the election results tonight, unable to sleep, I started wondering if this was all some big karmic joke; paying the UK back for years of smugness about US politics – yes, Tony Blair was a goon in a tie, but at least he wasn’t George Bush, at least our bloke wasn’t stupid. I shared in that smugness, I was that stupid. Accordingly I was simultaneously ecstatic, ashamed and envious the night the leaders of the free world voted to make their leader Barack Obama.

It’s less an issue of karma than complacency. In the good times, we (some of us) could ignore the way (some views in) this country were going. Now, predictably, the bad times have brought dissatisfaction, bigotry, corruption and cruelty into view, from voters and politicians alike. For the first time, my house in Stratford got leafletted by the BNP.  Some people have seen the BNP’s gains, including the appoinment of former NF and National Socialist member Andrew Brons as the BNP’s first MEP and his fascist leader Nick Griffin as their second. People have voted to give the BNP and far-right parties what The Times has called ‘a cash bonanza‘. And these votes, sadly, are not a “protest vote”.

Yes, the economy is in the shit and yes, the politicians of all three major parties have behaved badly with the expenses scandal. But there were alternatives; there are always alternatives. We have fourteen major political parties in the United Kingdom, and at least a further twenty-five minor political parties in England alone.

Immigrants and non-white Britons did not cause the economic crisis. They did not cause the expenses scandal (my God, even if you’re somehow stupid enough to disagree with the former, surely you don’t believe that the average Polish plumber somehow compelled Douglas Hogg to charge us for cleaning his moat?). The BNP cannot solve any economic crisis. Voters are angry with political corruption, but surely they cannot imagine that people capable of uttering the words “Hitler, God rest his soul” are going to conduct themselves with more honesty, judgment and fairness than members of the three main parties?

I don’t think that even BNP voters (disgusting bigots all) can be stupid enough to really, truly believe that immigrants caused the housing crash, the culture of bankers’ bonuses, or MP corruption. They may keep themselves willfully ignorant (racism cannot survive open-minded learning), but they cannot really believe it. Nobody can. If the BNP voters were really casting protest votes, they would have spoiled their ballots, or gone for the local incarnation of the Monster Raving Loony Party (I remember finding out about them as a very small child; they charmed me, as does their current Joan Crawford-esque policy of no more wire hangers).

Perhaps I am underestimating the stupidity of the electorate. But not, I think, their racism: what’s gone on here is scapegoating and voluntary, even willing venting of racist hate. This isn’t a new problem, this isn’t a problem caused by inflation or MP expenses. And it’s not the same problem oilrig workers complain about when companies undercut them with foreign workers through loophole accommodation deals. That’s not so-called ‘affirmative action’, so loathed by right-wingers: that’s white businessmen doing anything to save money at the expense of their employees. No, what’s happening here is that the racism of our society is being exposed by a convenient set of circumstances; ones which allow people a suddenly “acceptable” reason to give up on mainstream politics and show what they truly believe. That worth is determined by skin colour and heritage, that difference is disgusting. And that instead of solidarity in diversity, the best way forward is for an insular and ignorant clump of voters, clinging to some long-dead notion of ‘indigenous’ Britain, to uphold their long-term racist goals under cover of a short-term protest.

And the most terrible thing is, this time it’s worked.

I hope the repercussions aren’t huge, and I hope that Brons’s influence is as limited as his viciousness deserves. But I don’t know, and I’m frightened that after the next election, when Gitface Smileshit David Cameron gets in, everything’s going to be so much worse.

‘Gay’ as perjorative: in a shock twist of fate, people can be idiots.

Why do people still think using ‘gay’ as a perjorative term is acceptable? Not in the sense of an explicitly, directly homophobic act, but as a word you can legitimately apply to any of life’s small annoyances; anything you don’t particularly like. Your laptop’s playing up – it’s being gay. Your director’s set doesn’t correspond with your aesthetic preferences? Gay. Your college first XV strip to the waist at the sweaty end of a college bop, then rub all over each other to the strains of ‘Free Nelson Mandela’/’Love Shack’ – sorry, no, that’s not gay. My mistake. It’s banter. But your lost keys, your spilt coffee, your bad essay, your tutor’s unreasonableness? They’re all gay. Really gay.

There are two answers to the question at the start of this essay: people think it’s acceptable to use ‘gay’ as a perjorative term, because they don’t think gay people are really, truly worthy of respect. Apparently, people think it’s acceptable to say ‘gay’ (sometimes interchangeably with ‘lame’, for added ignorance) because they don’t think it’s really, truly acceptable to be it.

Yes, using ‘gay’ as a catch-all is just a ‘lazy’ way of speaking, but it’s a laziness that says a lot about the speaker. If you are heterosexual and say ‘gay’ perjoratively in front of someone who’s LGBT or an ally, – acctually, scrub that. I think that even if you say ‘gay’ perjoratively behind the backs of someone who’s LGBT or ally, you’re an idiot who deserves to be treated as nothing other than the bigoted child you so obviously are. But onwards:

When you’re speaking in the hearing of someone queer, and you use ‘gay’ as a synonym for ‘rubbish’, you’re saying:

“I don’t think it’s worth my while to moderate my language out of deference to your feelings. I will not make the minimal effort to keep from saying hurtful things in front of you. I am not concerned with your comfort, or – crucially – your good opinion of me.”

I don’t care if that’s not what you think you’re saying: it’s what people hear. Because we can all moderate what we say and write when we think it’s in our best interests. We can all manage not to swear in front of our grandmothers or during job interviews. Even longer-term, we can bite our tongues to keep from hurting people’s feelings – we can smile and be pleasant to a friend’s partner we despise, or sit through a dull conversation on x topic when we want the speaker to like us. Even when we’re really relaxed – relaxed like you might be when you let a perjorative ‘gay’ roll off the tongue – it’s hopefully automatic for all civilised beings to say please and thank you. That’s obviously desirable. So why is it desirable to ‘automatically’ be a prejudiced idiot? Why the hell is it such a huge effort not to sound like a total bigot? And why isn’t it important to you, a straight person, that any gay person could be hurt by a word you really don’t need to use? Why aren’t that person’s feelings worth your while?

And yeah, I do know that some LGBT people use the word ‘gay’ perjoratively, and call it ‘ironic’. Which.. whatever. I find it distasteful. Any LGBT person who does that is just providing ten more idiots with an excuse for lazy, hurtful speech – ‘oh but my best friend is gay and he/she finds it hilarious!’. Great. 90% of the LGBT population won’t. But, I suppose that the LGBTers who do say ‘gay’ that way — it’s their word. Theirs to use, even if I see it as abusing it.

But it makes me horribly uncomfortable. I can’t believe I regularly hear this word being used as a perjorative in a university city meant to contain some of the brightest young people in the UK. Worse still – although mercifully not in the LLL company (which… would be ridic considering it’s not exactly straight or narrow overall) – thesps doing student drama think it’s okay to say! Students wanting a career in professional theatre! Young people aged 18-22 who actually expect to find fame and fortune in the theatrical profession  while being homophobic! Except, oh, wait, they’ll probably manage to modify their speech, because then there’ll be something in it for them. Whoops.

Oxford is not a homophobic city – it’s an amazing place. There’s a thriving LGBTsoc, some good club nights, a generally relaxed atmosphere; and the vast majority of students are not homophobic.

Yet, for some reason, a significant minority of little gits are lazy and ignorant enough to speak as if they were.