On July 25th Michael ‘Mikey’ Causer was attacked at a party and then had his head literally beaten in in the street outside. He suffered terrible head injuries merely for being gay and on August 2nd he died of them. Of course the mainstream media has barely noticed – after all it’s safe and easy being gay these days. We have gay marriage in all but name, we have gay equality legislation covering the provision of goods and services, gay adoption, in short near-full equality before the law, so this must just be an exception, right? Pride marches in London have become mere spectacles for straight tourists, and marketing opportunities rather than political statements that we are defiantly gay, reminding those who still hate us that we are everywhere, that we look like them, work with them and are related to them. Yet in a neighbourhood famous for the murder of Anthony Walker, also different from the local white, straight, working class norm, Mikey was 18 and gay, out and proud of it. Iris Robinson would have seen him as an abomination and offered him therapy, yet surely the only abominations here were homophobia and murder?
And where does such hatred come from? Well these people may offer a clue:
“Every statistic shows that children grow up more likely to do well in school, stay out of trouble, and have a happier life if they have both a male and female role model.
“Too often we look at these things from the point of view of the adult rather than the child. I think that adoption by homosexual couples is unsatisfactory for the child.
“What homosexual people choose to do under their duvets is up to them, but the example they set to children is of interest to society as a whole.”
Homophobe Norman Tebbit, once Margaret Thatcher’s right hand man, speaking perhaps with more coded hate, but still making it clear his belief that being gay is unacceptable and somehow (without showing how) dangerous for children to be exposed to. He’s wrong of course – every statistic and piece of research shows the exact opposite – that it’s the quality of the parenting, be it a heterosexual or gay couple or single person, which determines a child’s success. He may be as much a raving loon as ever, but (as he his acutely aware) he still speaks for many and legitimises their bigotry. Then there’s the Archbishop of Canterbury, resolutely punishing gay Christians for the homophobia of their fellows:
Rowan Williams said practices in certain US and Canadian dioceses were threatening the unity of the Anglican communion.
“If North American churches do not accept the need for a moratoria [on same sex blessings and the consecration of gay clergy] we are no further forward. We continue to be in grave peril,” he said.
Williams has tried to cover himself in recent days, by revealing that as an individual he remains extremely liberal, and indeed supportive of gay people and gay partnerships. Yet as Archbishop of Canterbury he’s now completely ignoring Bishop Gene Robinson and siding with gay haters like Archbishop Peter Akinola. Which position do you think sends out the louder message?
Quoting from a key document on Anglican and Catholic relations he (Walter Cardinal Kasper) said: “Homosexuality is a disordered behaviour. The activity must be condemned; the traditional approach to homosexuality is comprehensive … A clear declaration about this theme must come from the Anglican Communion.”
It’s accepted by the mainstream of society that homosexuality is not a disordered behaviour. Every major psychological organisation has accepted this for decades now, and although politics in the West is a more recent convert, most Western politicians (many increasingly gay themselves) now agree too and are including gay people under the banner of diversity and equality. Yet as Gene Robinson said the other week, it is the Church which remains most effective at determining hearts and minds, and the Vatican desperately wants all Christians to believe that being gay makes you not quite human. Well that belief has consequences.
Not all politicians are supporters of the diversity agenda however, and there remain exceptions who consider their religion trumps their secular commitment to equality. Iris Robinson, MP & MLP, keen ‘defender’ of the faith, is stidently keen to make sure that we know that gay people are worse than murderers and child abusers. She too may come across as a complete loon to most, but in her position of responsibility (after all she’s an elected representative) she’s also representing and legitimising the beliefs of a significant minority. She hasn’t been removed as chair of Stormont’s Health Committee and hasn’t been censured by her boss (and husband) Peter, a failure which sends out a message at least the equal of hers.
Anti-gay hate doesn’t come from nowhere – it’s transmitted. Outrage! and the Queer Youth Network issued a joint press release, offering perhaps a deeper analysis of the origins of the hate which killed Michael (and Anthony):
“Anthony Walker and Michael Causer and their families were not only victims of Racism and Homophobia, they had their lives destroyed by something that is ravaging every aspect of our society. Sadly the events in Huyton over the past few days is proof that young people from our poorest, most marginalised sections of society are the victims regardless of the cause. It’s also to remember that the perpetrators themselves along with their families.”
“I understand there a number of high profile campaigns such as Stonewall’s much publicised ‘Education for All’ that receive a great deal of public and private sector funding as well as income generated from delivering training to tackle the issue of homophobic bullying, but are they working?” their impact is still limited to a handful schools and tend to be dominated by London based organisations and politicians who have jumped on the Homophobic Bullying ‘Bandwagon’ for their own gain.” (Pauline Ellis) concluded.
“I would like to see Sir Ian McKellen other high profile campaigners who opened people’s eyes to intolerance in the past such as Michael Cashman, Angela Eagle and Lord Waheed Ali to reach out to working class communities and talk to young people in the street.” “In the 1990′s they bravely fought against the biggest concern facing LGBT Youth at the time – Section 28, a threat written on paper. People began to think twice about attacking us. Today’s threat is written very clearly, in blood. Fighting violence carried out in the name of homophobia is now a matter of life or death.”
Whilst it would be a mistake to say that murderous homophobia and racism only breed in poor and deprived communities, there’s no denying that the area itself has terrible social problems, of which the Walker and Causer killings are a symptom.
It’s also a question I’ve wondered for some time – can a political lobbying organisation, already hugely successful in changing the law, succeed in changing attitudes as well? Stonewall has come across at a distance and up close, as a middle class organisation, staffed by professional middle class people, without a huge incentive (or ability) to reach out across the social classes and races. It was why Ian McKellen’s appearances with Bishop Gene Robinson a few weeks ago came across as so important – each framed their respective roles in an overall strategy for changing laws and minds (it was notably Robinson who could change minds). Well they too have to put their money where their mouth is and turn this nascent alliance into something which can bring about results.
“Michael and those charged with the offences against him and those currently on bail were known to each other and had been together in a house in Biglands Drive, Huyton during the course of Thursday evening and Friday morning.
“The initial assault upon Michael took place within this house.
“The incident was reported to police and ambulance at 11am on Friday 25 July 2008 when Michael was admitted to Whiston Hospital with serious head injuries.
“Contrary to speculation, I can confirm that this was not a random attack of a young gay man walking in Knowsley.”
While the minority rights organisations celebrate their marketing successes, whilst singly failing to change attitudes where it counts, and the Churches wring their hands about homosexuality in their own institutions, young people are being murdered. Apathy made Mikey Causer’s murder happen and I don’t see anyone lifting a finger to change it – politicians, Churches, lobbyists and community organisations need to start working together – the DNA database, CCTV, 42 days’ detention without charge, RIPA legislation and prohibitions on the ordination of out gay clergy are political smokescreens, while genuinely vulnerable people like Mikey get no real protection from the real threats at all.
Three men remain mystifyingly free on bail, in a country whose national media remains resolutely disinterested, and whose gay community remains unaware. Pauline Ellis reminds us all:
“It’s very easy for the increasingly comfortable and apathetic gay community to blame working class youths for this latest attack, but having partnership rights and a few extra equality laws is not an excuse to abandon the ongoing fight for gay liberation.”